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.
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.
Alan Jacobs, President of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, died last month. Well-known and respected in the Advaita community, he was the author of nearly 30 spiritually-related books, from a contemporary, free-verse rendering of the Bhagavad Gita to a compilation of material from Ramesh Balsekar.
I only met Alan a couple of times so am not qualified to write any eulogy. I will leave that to Paula Marvelly, who knew him for many years. I can however, agree entirely with her summary: “Alan was the quintessential English man of letters and a perfect gentleman. I shall always have an enduring image of him sporting a Panama hat, cravat and cane, with a cup of tea near to hand”. Continue reading →
The links to purchase are below. Prices from Amazon are currently as follow:-
UK: Book – £28.99 (normally £32.99); Kindle – £14.75 (normally £16.31);
US: Book – $35.65 (normally $48.95); Kindle – $18.44 (normally $20.02).
One of the five great sayings (mahavakyas) of Vedanta which proclaims the highest truth of Non-Duality or Advaita is “Thou art That” – Tat Tvam Asi, occurring in the Chandogya Upanishad in 6.8.7. Here “Tat” refers to Brahman/Self. So in the most common sense rendering of the statement, it means – “You are Brahman”. This saying is not saying, “You must ‘become’ Brahman”. What it says is that one is already Brahman. Such is the case and one just has to know it to be so.
I had to bold and italicize the last lines of this paragraph because even when it is clearly stated, people are not able to overcome this notion of “becoming”. This is seen in the most advanced ‘practitioners’ of Advaita. In fact this notion of “becoming” is actually Maya, which keeps one tied to doership. This Maya is extremely hard to overcome, a fact which was anticipated and stated, both by Gaudapada and Shankaracharya, whom I shall be quoting in articles coming subsequently in this series.
In fact, this sense of Maya or “becoming” or “doership” is so powerful and so blinding that even after the Mahavakya says this to be the case; even after I shall show that all forms of doing are Maya; after giving all forms of quotes, logic and arguments: the notion of Maya/becoming/doership is very hard to root out. The Bhagavad Gita gives words to this predicament in the verse,
Among thousands of men, one perchance strives for perfection; even among those successful strivers, only one perchance knows Me in essence
From the (as if) paramartha level, the level where one thinks and talks about ultimate Reality, can one (correctly) say anything positive about brahman? E.g. Brahman is … <whatever>. Or is it only correct to negate that which is not brahman (neti neti)?
Thanks to you guys for helping me see that I am going around in circles with my attempt to fathom Brahman. I often enjoy circling, the repetition is soothing. But it slows down the forward momentum of my path.
So for now I’ll put my Brahman obsession on the back burner. If Brahman comes up in my studies, I’ll think of it in the way that has given me least trouble over the years:
Brahman is what-really-is.
Dennis suggested my next stop be Swami P’s commentary on the Vivekachudamani. Onward ho!