Who am I?

In the (very long) thread of Q. 479 ‘What should I read?’, Ramesam asked the question: Who do we (the posters) mean when we use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’?

He suggested that ‘I’ could mean Atman/Brahman, if used from the ‘as if’ pAramArthika viewpoint; it could mean the reflected Consciousness (chidAbhAsa); or it could mean the usually understood ‘named person’.

I suggest that it can ONLY mean the usually understood, named person. When ‘I’ speak to ‘you’ or when I write the word ‘I’ in a post, I cannot be Atman/Brahman. The pAramArthika Atman/Brahman is non-dual. It is neither actor nor enjoyer. It does no do anything. It does not speak and it does not write. When I write and use the word ‘I’, if I mean Brahman, I need to add additional words to make this obvious.

The chidAbhAsa concept is a metaphor to explain how it can be that I am really Atman/Brahman and yet appear to be a conscious, embodied, independent entity. It relates the appearance to the reality. But I am not a metaphor.

Similarly, when I address ‘you’, I am speaking/writing to the named individual ‘you’. I would scarcely have the temerity to write to Brahman (and what would be the point?)! And, again, it would not be meaningful to address a metaphor.

If anyone is NOT using the same criteria when they post, could they please do so henceforth! 😉

Communication is only meaningful when an (apparently) independent entity A speaks or writes etc. to another (apparently) independent entity B.  B doesn’t know in advance what A is going to say or write. All is empirically familiar and obvious. There is no need to complicate things unnecessarily. Occam’s razor reigns supreme!

Q.476 – Metaphors

Q: Which metaphor in Advaita is the closest to truth? For example:

1.      If I take the “Snake in rope” metaphor, I must consider that “there-is-something” called rope, which is mistaken for something else (snake). So, in this metaphor, there is a TRUE rope and UNTRUE snake.

2.      If I consider the “Water in Mirage” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE water, but there is no substrate on which this is happening (there is no rope equivalent here).

3.      If I consider the “Dream” metaphor, there is the UNTRUE dream cosmos and dream characters and there is the TRUE dreamer in whose mind all this is happening. So the substrate is the dreamer’s mind – though it is “no-thing” in itself.

The doubt is…
Metaphor 1 gives an impression that there “is-something” out there, but we mistake it for something else and give it name & forms etc.

Metaphor 2 gives an impression that there is “nothing out there” and what we see is only inside our mind (the mirage has no substrate out there, but just an error in our mind).

Metaphor 3 is somewhat in the middle of metaphors 1 & 2 – Like metaphor 1, it has a TRUE substrate (the dreamer’s mind) but that substrate itself is just mind stuff (like metaphor 3) which can appear and disappear instantly, following no rules of any sort (rope will follow some rule, but a dream elephant may fly).

So is there something “out there” (some ineffable substrate – say energy) which is misunderstood as something else (say matter, forms) OR there is “nothing-out-there” and whatever we see is only our minds-stuff in motion?

Many thanks to the teachers for having this forum where seekers could ask their questions and helping others see the great truth! Continue reading

Journey Beyond

New Release: Journey Beyond: A Non-dual Approach – By Acharya Dr. K. Sadananda

Everyone is searching for happiness that is everlasting. Yet, none can find it by any pursuit; at the same time none can stop the pursuit. This seems to be the tragedy of human life; nay the life of every being. Every pursuit is limited: space-wise, time-wise and object-wise. Any pursuit that is limited cannot give everlasting happiness. Some promise the eternal happiness after death, if one follows their path; yet none has returned to claim that they accomplished it by following that path. One sage declares that ‘truth is a pathless land’. Vedanta ascertains that the truth is beyond the space-time-object wise limitations; and you are that truth – tat tvam asi. The ‘Journey Beyond’ space-time limitations is the central theme of the discussions in this text.

About the Author:

Dr. K. Sadananda is a Material Scientist by profession, and worked at United States Naval Research Laboratory as Head of Deformation and Fracture, published extensively in Science, and received many awards.

He retired in 2005, and now works as a private consultant in the United States for six months of the year. He was also a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

He is a disciple of Swami Chinmayananda, was a founding trustee of the Chinmaya Mission’s Washington Regional Center as well as Shree Siva Vishnu Temple, Maryland, USA. He served as Secretary and Treasurer of SEVA, Inc., a philanthropic organization formed around 1980 by Chinmaya Mission, to fund projects in India and elsewhere. Currently he is an Acharya or spiritual teacher of Chinmaya Mission, and splits his time between the USA and India. Advaita Academy has been sponsoring many of his talks on Vedanta and has made them available on You-tube under Acharya Sadaji. He is also an author a book, Introduction to Vedanta, available now on Amazon, USA.  He is married to Mrinalini Sadananda, who is well-known Kuchipudi dancer and Choreographer.

This 3-volume book may be purchased from Amazon:
from Amazon.com; from Amazon.co.uk; from Amazon.in

Q. 470 Aah!

Q: Does this sound right to you?

Advaita considers this to be innate certain knowledge: I exist, I experience (i.e. I am a subject). It is the bedrock of the Advaitin teachings. The source. If I am not utterly certain that I exist and experience, all of the downstream Advaitin views of self and reality will be skewed.

A: No. It is certain knowledge that ‘I exist’. But that ‘I’ (Atman) does not act or enjoy (akartA, abhoktA). So it does not ‘experience’ either. It cannot be a ‘subject’ because then there would have to be an ‘object’ – and that would be duality. Everything other than ‘I’ is mithyA. ‘Experience’ is via the reflected consciousness (chidAbhAsa) in the mind.

Q: I understand.   The thing is, I’m a very intuitive person. I rely on and trust my gut feelings about things. Pure reasoning and logic only go so far for me, particularly in the metaphysical realm.

So in order to be certain that I exist, I need to know it in my gut. Up to now, neither reasoning nor shravaNa has elicited this in-the-gut certainty. What has is perceiving, thinking, and feeling stuff – I experience, therefore I am. 

Brahman is clearly neither subject nor object (nor anything else that can be thought or expressed in words). Thus Atman is also neither subject nor object. Ditto for the Self. But some students (a sizeable number I reckon) are going to find it next to impossible to somehow KNOW stuff like this with certainty but without relying at all on experience, gut feeling, intuition, etc.

A: Sureshvara says that only shravaNa can bring the ‘final understanding’. If you do not currently have it, all you can do is more manana (which you are doing by asking questions) and nididhyAsana (more reading, listening to talks etc.) and then, at some point in the future, come back to more shravaNa. And repeat this loop until a shravaNa session brings you an Aah! moment!



A: Very good!

Doership and personal responsibility

Q. Is the standpoint of the Vedanta man not the doer? If so, where does his/her personal responsibility begin and end? (from Quora)

A. Individual man is a doer (and an enjoyer) so long as s/he identifies themselves as such, thus reaping the results of their actions. If the presumed – seemingly independent – individual knows that s/he is in essence the supreme Knower/Actor, that is, pure Consciousness, then actions, enjoyments, happen, but s/he does not claim any of that: any response comes directly and spontaneously from Consciousness.

Bear in mind, though, that it is not Consciousness itself which acts, rather it is behind all actions: ‘It is the hearing of hearing, touch of touch, mind of mind’, speech of speech’, etc. (Ke Up, 1-2) as their background or substrate.

‘Mind alone – when ignorant – is the cause of bondage and mind alone – when enlightened – is the cause of liberation’ (Amrita Bindu). M.

Can consciousness exist without time? 

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta (and I believe also zen and Dzogchen), time is not just something elusive, but ultimately unreal – only an idea or concept. The same can be said about the concept of ‘now’, which cannot be elucidated or measured in any way. ‘Now’ can only be a symbol of eternity, immeasurable but always present. ‘Eternity’ itself is a symbol or slanted conception of reality or existence/being, which is timeless. For the absolute time does not exist. Consciousness alone is real and, thus, timeless. Stated differently, ‘what is never ceases to be; what is not never comes into being’ (Shankara). Parmenides, Gaudapada, and Shankara were strong in that position.


Vedanta the Solution – Part 62

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 62 concludes the series with a short summary of the function of Vedanta in revealing the truth about the nature of the Self, the world and Ishvara; and the role that saMpradAya plays in achieving this. A list of addresses is provided to access the Arsha Vidya teaching via talks and books. There is a complete Contents List, providing links to the relevant material.


Our special thanks to Sri Venugopal for writing this brilliant and accessible summary of the teaching and allowing its serialization at the site.


Meditation- Vedantic Way

Advaita seeking is in three gradual stages: ShravaNa( Hearing), Manan (Contemplation) and NididhyAsanA (Meditation).  In  Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad  sage Yagnavalkya says to his wife Maitreya:  Self should be realized by ShravaNa, Manan and NididhyAsanaA; upon realization of the Self, all this is known.

ShravaNa means listening to vedantic teaching by a guru. It would also include reading vedantic literature and in the age of technological advancement, accessing the teaching offered by other sources. Contemplation means analyzing the teaching and grasping intellectually. All doubts should stand cleared at this stage.  Next stage is meditation which enables internalization of the teaching and making it a living practice. No doubt, there is a wide gap between intellectual understanding and living practice, like two shores of a river. Having understood the enormity of task, the sages of yesteryear, out of compassion for the mankind, laid down the technique of vedantic meditation so as to swim across the river.  Drg Drsya Vivek describes vedantic meditation. It is progressive and in conformity with vedantic teaching.

There are two broad categories of meditation, namely, internal and external. Each category is further divided in three stages, namely, savikalpa meditation with thought, savikalpa meditation with word and nirvikalpa meditation.  It is noteworthy that the three stages follow in the same order.  Thus it is six- fold method. Vikalpa means division. In savikalpa meditation, subject-object division and duality exist. In nirvikalpa meditation there is no such division and is non-dual. Continue reading

Is a single neuron conscious? A brief discussion.

M. Advaita Vedanta’s perspective is better seen from the top down rather than from the bottom up. Consciousness or awareness can be considered (there is a consensus on this) as a ‘fundamental ‘property’ of (or pointer to) reality’, not reality itself, which is unfathomable and indescribable. It permeates every apparently external phenomenon, which is thus an expression or manifestation of Consciousness. Accordingly, a neuron, an electron, is a manifestation of Consciousness – ‘the One without a second’. Alternately, neurons, atoms, etc. are embedded in Consciousness or reality.

PB. I think the best words you can use to characterize reality are awareness/consciousness, existence/beingness and bliss/love. However, I wouldn’t identify reality with consciousness, the other two concepts, or all three together. They are just the purest manifestations of reality that we can identify. True reality is not a thing or concept, it is beyond definition.

But yes, I would agree that neurons, electrons etc. are phenomena of consciousness, as are these words and the bodies and minds that write them.

M. Metaphysical truth is sometimes called apperception, or direct supramental perception, and it is non-transferable. Nicholas of Cusa put it this way: “The highest wisdom is this, to know… how that which is unattainable may be reached or attained unattainably”. Metaphysics (philosophia prima, or first philosophy of medieval times) is not science, and its truths are often dressed as paradoxes, analogies, and metaphors; they are not meant to convince anyone who is not open to them.


A metaphysical truth appeals to intuition; it is an experience, or knowledge-experience… It is not speculation and is not amenable to subject-object relationship or distinction.

M. (to another participant) Did you look up the word ‘rishi/s’? It means ‘sage’ – Swami Vivekananda described Rishi-s  as Mantra-drashtas or “the seers of thought”. He told— “The truth came to the Rishis of India — the Mantra-drashtâs, the seers of thought — and will come to all Rishis in the future, not to talkers, not to book-swallowers, not to scholars, not to philologists, but to seers of thought.” (From Wikipedia).





Two Q & A-s

How can we consciously realize the consciousness concept?

First, consciousness is beyond concepts – language, which is dualist, allows talking of it as if separate from the subject, thus conceptually. But consciousness is a prime reality, the foundation of everything existing; same as being (which are not two). Consciousness is first, an immediate reality and, accordingly, you don’t have to do anything to realize it since you are it. Only, let the veil of ignorance drop, mostly by ‘not this, not this’ – one apavada after another; that is, by real understanding or discrimination. You are being itself, consciousness itself. The knower cannot know itself – as an object.

Who would win in an argument between Ramanujacharya and Shankaracharya?

As non-duality can be said to go beyond, and at the same time enclose duality within itself, we can also say that Shankara, being a non-dualist philosopher, goes beyond and ‘incorporates’ Ramanuja, that is, the latter’s philosophy (it has been said: a jñani understands a bhakta, not vice versa).

Ramanuja took the ego (psychological self) as being the Self, an error for an Advaitin. For the former a destruction of the ego (“me”) will thus entail destruction of the Self. For an Advaitin, the ego or subtle body (mind, senses and vital breath) dissolves when the body dies – not so awareness or pure consciousness.

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta ‘consciousness’ is another name for ‘reality/being/existence’: all there is or that can be (all possibilities of existence). Neither ‘subject’ nor ‘object’, it annihilates this (mental) division, as well as sublating all concepts.

Or, as Francis Lucille, a well-known teacher wrote: ‘Simply put, non-dualism is the hypothesis that reality is non-dual, that there is only one single reality which is the substance of all things, of all phenomena, of both mind and matter. If that is true, it follows that the reality of our ordinary consciousness, meaning whatever it is that is really perceiving these words in this moment, must be this non-dual, single, and universal reality.’

Shankara said:

‘An enlightened person, after his death, does not undergo a change of condition – something different than when he was living. But he is said to be “merged in Brahman” just due to his not being connected to another body.’ Quoted from ‘The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta’, Michael Comans.