NDM: When you say “he clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect relationship and other such mechanisms and patterns conceived by the mind,” are you also referring to saMskAra-s and vAsanA-s and can you please explain what these are?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is right. Jivanmukta understands the unreality of samskAra-s and vAsanA-s too.
Let us see what these words stand for.
samskAra-s and vAsanA-s are the learned behaviors. If I wish ‘Good Morning’ to Mr. X, my samskAra (culture) expects an appropriate response from him. If I run away in disgust at the sight of a rotting carcass giving off unbearable stink or if a baby cries with fear on seeing a dark scary spider, it is as per the blueprint (vAsanA-s) of the learned behavior stored in the genes. Continue reading →
[John LeKay, Artist and Editor-Owner of the Non-duality Magazine (NDM) did a lengthy Interview (in two stages) almost a decade ago (July – August 2010) on the broad topic of Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti. The Conversation is not readily available now at the NDM Website (which is under renovation). John has, therefore, kindly permitted its republication and Dennis Waite, has very graciously consented to host the Interview as a Series of Posts at Advaita Vision Website because of the relevance of the topic even today. (A few words are tweaked here and there for better readability).]
NDM: Can you please tell me how you became interested in Jivanmukti?
Ramesam Vemuri: It is rather difficult to mark a specific date or relate my interest (in Advaita and Jivanmukti) to a particular event; it happened as a process of nature and nurture in the general atmosphere of Indian cultural milieu I grew up in. Perhaps it was smeared on to my brain cells even when I was a young boy! I was born and brought up in a family steeped in philosophy (my father was a Theosophist and author of several philosophical works). I had been fortunate to be exposed to Mr. J. Krishnamurti’s talks early in life (even before I could fathom their full import). Both these situations could be the triggers for my interest in Jivanmukti.
A Bhakta never closes his eye lest his beloved be lost from his sight.
A Yogi never opens his eye lest the vile world come into his sight.
A Vendantin, eyes open or shut, sees eternal Happiness in all the sights.
Quoting from the talk of an Advaita teacher on the message of the aitareya Upanishad:
“It is Consciousness that impels us to feel hungry. It is Consciousness that impels the food to let itself be eaten. Consciousness propels us to perceive the world and It commands the world to be seen by us. Our seeing becomes meaningless if there is no world to be seen. The appearance of the world is meaningless if there is none as the seer. Both are impelled in their actions by the One Consciousness. Continue reading →
Hardly does a minute go by when a student of Advaita does not hear an analogy. The subject being so abstruse and abstract, the teacher ostensibly to make things easy to understand (सुख बोधाय), resorts to the method of using an “analogy.” Much like in Theoretical Physics and Quantum Physics, the concepts in Advaita too are usually counterintuitive and metaphor is a powerful tool to help drive home a difficult idea. The danger in using the metaphor is that it, more often than not, lulls the student with a sense as though s/he “got” it (the Oneness of All That-IS). Perhaps because of that, it is not seldom that we find even an advanced student of Advaita being tempted to extend a metaphor beyond the intended point and make his/her own inferences from such a wrong projection. (I am frequently asked questions on ‘reflected Consciousness,’ ‘Witness-Consciousness’ etc. based on such improper extensions).
No wonder that Physicists (particularly those in Science Communication) are concerned about the “use of metaphor” and the “understanding” it provides. Recently, I found the problem best articulated by Philip Freeman, a teacher of Physics. He has some interest in Philosophy also. He lives near Vancouver BC, Canada. I am copying from his reply to a question at Quora regarding the limitations of analogies. Continue reading →
It means: shraddha is “implicit faith in the word of the scripture and the teacher.”
vivekacUDAmaNi, verse 25 is a bit more elaborate on ‘shraddha.’ One of the translations of this verse reads: “THAT by which one understands the import of the scriptures as well as the pregnant words of the advice of the preceptor is called by the wise as ‘shraddha.’
The word implies an ability to embrace the Truth, explains another of the translators of this verse. Continue reading →
We all know that the shruti predominantly adopts the model of adhyAropa–apavAda (superimposition – sublation) in imparting the incommunicable Advaita message. There are other types of models and prakriyA-s also available in the scripture and tradition but they do not seem to be as popular. The adhyAropa–apavAda model superimposes an “imagined” or illusory creation on the really real Reality and as the student ingests the core Advaitic teaching, the superimposition is sublated. We find, however, that the shruti spends more time dealing with diverse aspects of the superimposed creation (birth, sustenance, death, action, fruits of action, rebirth etc.), the sublation being left to the ingenuity of the student as s/he reaches her/ his final understanding. One teacher estimates that Shankara in general devotes 90 percent of his time in most of his works on expiation of the Advaita doctrine and the attendant practices, leaving only a minor part on sublation and the outcome of the practices. This situation in some quarters has given rise to an insistence that the shruti teaches creation and that we have to take only the shrutivAkya-s and Shankara’s commentary on them as the pramANa (reference standard) for understanding the Advaita message forsaking other methods and vAkya-s in the scripture. Is that the intention of shruti? What is the final position of the shruti about creation from an Advaita perspective?Continue reading →
Many misconceptions and misunderstandings appear to be prevailing about Yoga and samAdhi in Advaita. We shall take up in this Part of our Series, an assortment of those topics in no particular order and examine the possible correct position.
1. Yoga Terminology in Advaita:
The Sanskrit root “yuj” being common to words like ‘yoga, yukti etc. indicative of a union, we find that the Yoga terminology by itself is not an anathema for Advaita. The word “Yoga” appears in as many as 10 brahmasUtra-s (e.g. 1.1.19; 1.1.31; 2.1.3; 2.2.9; 3.1.26; 3.4.41; 4.2.17; 4.2.21 etc.). It is used 93 times with different meanings in Bhagavad-Gita. kaTha and svetAsvatara Upanishads too refer to ‘yoga’ practices and the latter particularly holds special praise for ‘yoga’ techniques. Shankara himself extols the effectiveness of practicing Yoga in his commentary at brahmasUtra (BS) 1.3.33.
We shall present in this Part – 2 how the word samAdhi is used in Yogavasishta (Yogavasishta is available as a pdf at this site). The word samAdhi occurs very ubiquitously in this text. It is used both in its Yogic and Advaita Vedanta meaning. A few select citations are illustrated below.
[We may, however, note that the original Commentator Shri Anandabodehndhra Swami Ji and also the current author Shri K. V. Krishna Murthy whose version is followed here belong to the tradition of Shankara. Hence we can expect the influence of Shankara in their interpretation.]
1.samAdhi is obtained through the practice of controlling the mind. Control of the mind can help to bring about the arresting of the senses from running after the worldly objects. So the Yogi’s desires for worldly things may disappear. Unless one realizes that all percepts are unreal and non-existent, practicing only samAdhi will not stop the yogi from going back to the worldly things when he is out of samAdhi. Just being in samAdhi will not bring about the knowledge that the visible world is untrue. It is necessary that one has to realize the false appearance of the world in order to be liberated. So one cannot attain liberation from the practice of deep meditation alone. It requires the Knowledge of Self.”
samAdhi is a highly technical term in Yoga and also in Vedanta. However, paradoxically, the word does not stand to convey the same ‘concept’ in a rigid and fixed manner in all its occurrences across different scriptural texts. Like all other Sanskrit words in the scriptures, the word attains a lot of fluidity and delicate malleability in the hands of the Sages and ancient authors to convey a very precise and what is otherwise inexpressible philosophical idea. Such flexibility in the use of technical words is unknown and unimaginable in the West, particularly so if one is trained in the modern science. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that one cannot nail the meaning of the word as per one single definition when comparing its usage across different texts by different authors of different times. ‘anubhava’ and ‘anubhUti’ usually rendered into English as “experience,” often used in association with samAdhi, is another such word that needs care in handling.
As we are aware, the teacher to disciple communication was predominantly oral in the ancient times and the meaning of a word smoothly and innocuously changed as per the context and the lineage of the teacher. Hence, it was considered that a disciple must approach a competent teacher and s/he has to be tutored face to face by the teacher as per the recension followed in that lineage. Jumping across different lineages or intermixing diverse systems of teachings without fully adhering to a specific one till the end can only result in confusion. Book-learning is also almost an impossibility in the absence of a teacher who would provide the authentic word meaning as can be understood from the famous example of the same word ‘satyam’ occurring twice in the same sentence in the same mantra but with two different meanings: Continue reading →