Need and luxury

There are basic human needs for survival: food, clothing, and dwelling. A commoner would be content if these needs are reasonably fulfilled. Any other material thing is a luxury. An item is considered a luxury if a person is not emotionally affected by its absence. As time passes and technology advances resulting in the availability of more and more sensory objects, human desire increases, and the scope of needs widens. Gradually a luxury becomes a need. It is material progress and is perceived as growth and prosperity. Think about the reverse effort. Can a person who has gained more than enough material progress convert a need (other than the basic needs in a reasonable measure) into a luxury? Is it possible and can s/he be successful? The answer is yes. It would require, on his or her part, increasing control over sense organs and the mind. It is the beginning of the spiritual journey.

Two lifestyles and two sAdhanAs for moksha

There are four ashramas(stages) of human life according to Vedic tradition. They are brahmacharya (student life), grihastha(householder), vAnaprastha(gradual withdrawal from family), and sannyAsa ( renunciation). They are compatible with four purushArthas (human goals): artha(wealth), kama(desires), dharma (morality and ethics), and moksha (liberation). Moksha is the ultimate goal. It has two aspects, namely, freedom from suffering in the present life and freedom from rebirth. Two important spiritual sAdhanAs(disciplines) for moksha are karma yoga and jnAna yoga. As the name suggests, karma yoga is action-oriented and jnAna yoga is knowledge-oriented. For the purpose of simplicity, karma yoga is taken to include all action-based disciplines, e.g., rituals and upAsanA (meditation). Brahmacharya is preparatory to grihastha and vAnaprastha is preparatory to sannyAsa. Accordingly, grihastha is taken to include brahmacharya and sannyAsa includes vAnaprastha. Thus, there are broadly two lifestyles: grihastha and sannyAsa, and two sAdhanAs: karma yoga and jnAna yoga. Sri Krishna praises both karma and jnAna in Bhagavat Gita (BG)
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Spiritual practice- earlier the better

Mahabharata is a famous epic describing diverse aspects of human life, like family and its intrigues, kingship, loyalty, friendship, dharma, war, Vedantic teaching, etc. Bhagavat Gita is in the 12th Book named Bhisma Parva because Bhisma is the commander of the Kauravas army during this part. 18 chapters of BG are chapters 23 to 40 of Bhisma Parva.  BG is a moksha shastra and a student of Vedanta should have read and understood Bhagavat Gita fairly well.  Surprisingly, there are other portions of Mahabharata that too have Vedantic teaching.  Mokshadharma Parva as the title suggests has Vedantic messages. It is a conversation between Yudhishthira and Bhisma.

After the Mahabharata war is over, Bhisma is lying on the bed of arrows awaiting his death to come at a time chosen by him. Yudhishthira is the new king but is depressed due to the destruction caused by the war. At the behest of Sri Krishna, he visits Bhisma to get instructions on various topics. Bhisma, though lying on the bed of arrows, is willing to answer Yudhishthira’s questions. He does so mainly through stories. One such story in Mokshadharma parva relates to the teaching given by a son to his father. Continue reading

Brahman alone is; there is no creation – confusion about

Advaita means non-dual. Advaita Vedanta (AV) asserts that Brahman alone is; there is no creation and that the world is a manifestation of Brahman. For a beginner seeker, like me, it is difficult to accept this assertion because the world is perceived and experienced. It constantly stares at me announcing its existence and reality. AV uses a gold-ornament metaphor to make its point. Ornament is a manifestation (name and form) of gold because there is no ornament separate from gold. To this, a counter poser would be that in the gold-ornament example both gold and ornament are material things and are perceived whereas the world is perceived and Brahman is not perceived. Secondly, how can the material world be a manifestation of immaterial Brahman?

It seems to me that the confusion is due to the term ‘manifestation’ as there is a tendency to perceive both ‘manifestation’ and the ‘thing’ that is manifested. It is preferable to explain the matter in terms of order of reality. Brahman is the highest order of reality; creation, though it exists, is a lower order reality borrowing its existence from Brahman. And in this sense only it is said that Brahman alone is; there is no creation, and that it is a manifestation. With this explanation, the metaphor is more illustrative. The existence of the world is not denied, instead, it is mithya. Idealism (i.e., creation is a manufacture of mind) has no place in AV.

A Primer on Advaita

 Publisher ‏ : ‎ Notion Press; 1st edition (27 April 2022), Paperback ‏ : ‎ 62 pages; ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8886675023, Weight ‏ : ‎ 118 g; Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.7 x 0.41 x 20.32 cm

From the Back Cover:

This booklet is based on AtmajnAnopadeshavidhi, a short treatise (prakaraNa grantha) of Shankaracharya, much respected within the Advaita tradition. It leads the reader, literally holding his/her hand, from the simple way we observe the objects in the world to the inexpressible “Consciousness principle” (brahman) that is present in all of us and everywhere without any abstruse quotes or indecipherable terminologies.

Available from: U.K. ; India 


A Vedantic Theorem

Theorem:  I am  awareness.  Proof: In plane geometry there are a few axioms, e. g., a point has no dimensions; a straight line has no width and is infinite. They are axioms because they are obvious and taken as proved. The axioms are necessary to prove geometrical theorems. In the same manner, there are three axioms, namely, (1) I am different from what I am or can be aware of, (2) I can be aware of what I am not, and (3) awareness is different from object of awareness.They are obvious and do not need any proof. Call them vedantic axioms in the present context. Now let us try to find out the things which I am aware of. It is simple to accept that I am aware of objects in the world outside. For example, I am aware of tree and building. Therefore I am not the tree or the building. What about my body? It is also true the I am aware of different parts of the body and the complete body. I am aware of eyes, ears, etc. Thus I am not the  body including the sense organs. What about the mind? Mind in simple terms is where thoughts  arise or which gives rise to them. Thoughts are in the form of ideas, emotions, memory, feeling, etc. My experience is that I am aware of my thoughts. It would follow that I am not the mind. To understand this fact is a crucial step.I am aware of all the worldly objects including my mind and body. Therefore, I am different from them by application of axiom (1).  After excluding/ negating the worldly objects, the mind and the body, two entities are left, namely, I (negator) and  awareness. It is another important step. As this awareness is without any object, it is  pure awareness. Now analyse the validity of statement, ‘I am aware of awareness’. It is not valid because vide axiom (3) it would mean that awareness is different from awareness, an absurdity. Thus I cannot be aware of awareness. By virtue of axiom (2) it leads to the conclusion that I am not different from awareness. In other words, I am awareness.

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.

Nigun Brahman, Sagun Brahman and AvatAr

Swami TadAtmAnanda of Arsha Bodha Center, in one of his talks on Bhagavad Gita, explains the above three with the help of the metaphor of a dream. I have attempted to improve it with a lucid dream, i.e., the dreamer knows that it is a dream. X sleeps in a bed. His mind projects a dreamer Y and a dream out of vasanas. Y is different from X. They belong to two different orders of reality. X is in the waking world and Y is in a dream world. There are many characters in the dream world and for them, the dream is not a dream; it is a waking state. Y is a special dream character as he knows that it is a dream. To avoid confusion, the dream character Y is named Z. Y is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the dream. The dream characters have no idea at all about X of the waking world. X belongs to a higher order of reality. X is transcendental so to say and is like Nirgun Brahman. Y is like Sagun Brahman (Ishwar). Z who knows that it is a dream is like an Avatar.
Note: As it is a metaphor it has some limitations.