dhyAna and samAdhi


dhyAna and samAdhi are quite fascinating, pretty alluring and romantically inspiring terms for an aspirant on the spiritual path. They are almost always spoken in a tone that creates an awe. They sound mysterious, other worldly and ethereal. Many stories are told in the Purana-s about highly revered Sages lost in deep meditation or samAdhi to the extent that they were unaware of their own body being buried in heaps of sand or eaten away by critters and crawlers. Hair-rising narratives too are often reeled out about the powers that dhyAna and samAdhi lead one to – clairvoyance, multiple accomplishments (aNimAdi siddhi-s), infinite longevity (ciranjIvatva), visitations to subtler worlds inaccessible to normal human beings and so on. There is hardly a spiritual Guru who does not harangue about the glories a seeker will be bestowed through practicing dhyAna and samAdhi. Some teachers would even make these as a pre-requisite before any true ‘knowledge’ is imparted. As a result, the words dhyAna and samAdhi acquired varying meaning. Teachers too historically used or interpreted them in different ways. We shall attempt to take a synoptic view particularly from a Non-dual perspective what these terms connote and their role and relevance for a seeker who has adopted the jnAna mArga (The Knowledge Path) in his/her pursuit of liberation.

The write up is structured as a Power Point Presentation downloadable as a pdf file at: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/dhyAna_samAdhi.pdf.

The principal argument I make here is that just like bodily physical exercises (of PT, haTha yoga, Asana-s. tai chai etc.), meditation is an exercise for the mind — an action done by a doer.

All actions will inevitably yield their results and surely whatever meditation technique one may use (mantra-based, breath-based, object-based, deity-based, Compassion meditation, focused meditation, mindfulness meditation etc.), one can expect certain outcomes.

The Neuroscientific evidence (taking into account the initial work done by the TM people, and later the research carried out at the Penn state University by Andrew Newberg, at Wisconsin by Dr. Richard Davidson and his group and many researchers at several other scientific Institutions across the world) shows that Meditation practices have a direct effect on the brain – a physical ‘object’ in the world.

The fact that meditation has an effect on the brain (which is a part of the body) implicitly means that the usually advocated “techniques” of meditation are useful in the wakeful state in the awake world. They help in relaxation, towards sharpening of the brain, in obtaining special skills, in increased thickness and increased number of folds in the top layer of the brain (cortex), in the generation of the neurotransmitters and hormones like opioids and cannabinoids (anandamide) etc. which give a happy feeling or produce squirts of dopamine.

But in Advaita, we consider the awake world and the actions that go on in the awake state are ‘mithya‘ (fallacious).

Further, Vedantic understanding says:

i)   Actions arise in ignorance (karma ajnAna janitaM).

ii)  Liberation cannot be ‘obtained’ as a “result” of an action done.

That being the case, how can Meditation, an action, a daily practice, lead to moksha, the pursuit of a seeker on the Knowledge Path (jnAna mArga)?  It cannot. The real Meditation, as is understood in Advaita, is not something to be “done.” Meditation is the ending of the triad (observer-observing-the observed). It is just a “happening” like ‘Life happens.’

Some Teachers use the word “samAdhi” to indicate such a type of True Meditation.

Patanjali sUtra-s define meditation and samAdhi in a different way than the above understanding. Hence, dhyAna and samAdhi can be pretty confusing words unless one is clear about the system being followed.

However, one should state that Meditation as a ‘to do’ practice, along with actions like charity, pilgrimage etc. are useful in training the mind in the beginning stages for a seeker. Meditation may also help in the post-realization phase of a seeker towards stabilizing oneself in the abidance of an unbroken brahman-thought.

Slides # 1 – 5: 

General Intro.

Slides # 6 – 33:

The first part of the slides deal with the Neuroscientific findings as evidence to show that different types of meditation affect different parts of the brain with  attendant  behavioral changes in the practitioner. (I have a couple of Video clips also in this part).

Slide # 34:

A short clip from a Talk by the Professor of Neuroscience, Nancy Kanwisher of MIT shows the discovery of the ‘Face recognition area’ in the brain. It also demos how the electromagnetic field in the brain impacts on what you see “out there.”  A change in the electrical field will distort or alter your perception. This aspect is exploited in the technique of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) used to bring about a change in the neural connections of a patient suffering from depression, anorexia and certain other disorders. But the interesting point coming out from an Advaita perspective is that it is a projection of the waves in your brain that show you what you ‘think’ you see located somewhere there outside you. It is not that a thing is ‘already there’ and you see it as ‘it exactly is.’

Slide # 35 – 41:

We discuss here the issues of self-control and emotional maturity and the parts of the body and brain related to these behaviors. Present Neuroscientific findings lead one to conclude that ‘self-control’ is a finite resource and is not inexhaustively available for use. A period of recuperation is required for the resource to get replenished. We also try to locate the six enemies (arishadvarga-s) and the corresponding endocrinal glands in the body.

Slides 42 – 46:

There is a difference between obtaining mind-based worldly knowledge and the Non-dual Self-Knowledge as explained by Shankara. We also examine the role ‘attention’ plays in giving us ‘knowledge’ and contrast it with Consciousness which is the ‘True Knowledge.’

Slides # 47 – 72:

Next I take up the definitions of dhyAna and samAdhi as used in different texts like aparokshAnubhUti, vivekacUDAmaNi, Yogavasishta etc. We consider the Vedantic view as expressed by Shankara with a few quotes from BG and so on. I try to bring out the difference in the usage of the terms in Patanjali yogasUtra-s and Advaita. Finally I show that action will help to attain citta sudddhi which leads to citta naishcalyaM, but the next stage of realizing jIvabrahmaikatva jnAna,  the vastu tantra jnana, is not a direct result obtained from the state of a  placid mind. It has to happen by Itself (tat prasAdAt).

I attempt to show that the terms “dhyAna and samAdhi,” though highly technical, have been used to mean different things by different teachers historically and that there is  no rigorous standardized universally accepted process or method that the words indicate. The slide # 51 presents the teaching of Sage Vasishta that realization of the Oneness of subject-object (i.e. Liberation) dawns on him who achieves ‘desirelessness.’

Slides # 73 – 75:

We end with an invocative prayer from mahAnArAyaNa upanishad:

आर्द्रं ज्वलतिज्योतिरहमस्मि । ज्योतिज्वॅलति ब्रह्माहमस्मि । योऽहमस्मि ।
अहमस्मि ब्रह्माहमस्मि । अहमेवाहं मां जुहोमि स्वाहा ॥ ….. 67.

Meaning: I realize this Identity of Jiva & Brahman by offering myself i.e., the jIvatva (the finite self) as an oblation into the Fire of Infinite brahman which I am forever. May this oblation be well reached for achieving jIva-brahma Identity.

(The above is a part of the अघमर्षण मन्त्र  (aghamarShaNa mantra), seeking the blessings of Sage aghamarShaNa, recited ritualistically by traditional seekers while bathing or during the observation of  other ablutions. The word aghamarShaNa also means the cleanser of demerit).

Acknowledgements:  I am grateful to the authors of the various sources from which I have freely adopted the material. As far as possible, I have given the references so that the reader can further pursue the matter, if interested.  My thanks are also due to Dennis who kindly had a preview of the slides and made helpful observations. He has been kind to create the downloadable link for the pdf of the 75 slides.

29 thoughts on “dhyAna and samAdhi

    • That is very kind of you, Dennis.
      Your words are very encouraging.

      I look forward to an active discussion from our readers.


  1. Ramesam, this is a wonderful multi-faceted and clear overview of the landscape. Thank you.

    On Ramana, here is what he said on Nirvikalpa Samadhi in Guru Vachaka Kovai:

    893: The mere non-percpection by the senses of the gross differences of the external world is not by itself the excellence of perfect nirvikalpa samadhi. Know that the illustrious and prized nirvikalpa samadhi is only the non-arising of the subtle distinctions caused by mental movements, owing to the total annihilation of vasanas.

    894: Samadhi is only remaining firmly established as the natural awareness ‘I am’. Forsake the awareness associated with the body limitation [I am so-and-so] that unites with you through delusion, and rest in that limitation-free state.

    • Thank you very much, Venkat for your kind Comments.

      Your quotes from Guru Vachaka Kovai are quite germane and enrich the POV I am presenting.

      As you may have seen at the Slide # 52, the question whether ‘nirvikalpa samadhi’ (NV) is a step before the realization of Advaita Oneness dawns is raised because some teachers quoting vivekacUDAmaNi say that the seeker must first achieve NV.

      Ramana did not say so. He brought in the terms of sahaja and kevala samadhi-s to explain his position.

      We can understand the way Nisargadatta Maharaj uses the word ‘samAdhi’ from his reply at Section 61. Matter is consciousness itself in “I Am That” (1981 edition):

      “Q: … Now, how am I to go into samadhi?

      M: If you are in the right state, whatever you see will put you into samadhi. After all, samadhi is nothing unusual. When the mind is intensely interested, it becomes one with the object of interest —
      the seer and the seen become one in seeing, the hearer and the heard become one in hearing, the lover and the loved become one in loving. Every experience can be the ground for samadhi.

      Q: Are you always in a state of samadhi?

      M: Of course not Samadhi is a state of mind, after all. I am beyond all experience, even of samadhi. I am the great devourer and destroyer: whatever I touch dissolves into void (akash).

      Q: I need samadhis for self-realisation.

      M: You have all the self-realisation you need, but you do not trust it. Have courage, trust yourself, go, talk, act; give it a chance to prove itself. With some, realisation comes imperceptibly, but somehow they need convincing. They have changed, but they do not notice it. Such nonspectacular cases are often the most reliable.”


  2. Fascinating post, Ramesam, thank you. I’m sure you must have read Michael Comans article on the relevance of samAdhi to Advaita. He makes the cogent point that this term does not appear even once in any of the 10 major Upanishads upon which Shankara commented.

    Best Regards,

  3. Charles, Comans may be right that samadhi does not appear in the 10 major upanishads, however Mandukyakarika does talk about asparsa yoga, which is in essence, the samadhi that Ramesam and Ramana are distinguishing.

    Also, Sankara does make mention of samadhi in his bhasya to Mandukyakarika, on a couple of verses just prior to those that talk of asparsa yoga:
    3.37: The Atman is denoted by the word samadhi as it can be realised only by the knowledge arising out of the deepest concentration on its essence.
    3.38: As Brahman alone has been described in the previous text as samadhi (i.e. the sole object of concentration) and as free from activity and fear, therefore in that Brahman there is nothing to accept, nor is there anything to give up . . . The purport of the karika is this: How can there be any acceptance or abandonment (in Brahman) where, in the absence of mind, no mentation whatsoever is possible?

    • Venkat, thanks for your reply. I’m not sure I agree that “asparsa yoga” and samadhi are equivalent terms in their essence. I will have to give that point some further thought and research. But yes, I agree with you that Shankara himself does use the term in more than one place. In fact, Comans discusses this point thoroughly. For example:

      “Another reference to samadhi, where it again seems to have a
      more positive value, occurs in the commentary upon the
      Mandukyakarika of Gaudapada, where in verse 3.37 the word
      samadhi is given as a synonym for the Self. Sankara glosses
      the word samadhi in two different ways, and in the first he
      says “samadhi = because [the Self] can be known through the
      wisdom arising from samadhi.”[27] Thus we can see that,
      according to Sankara, samadhi has a role to play in Vedanta,
      but yet the first reference (2.1.9) indicates that this role
      is perhaps more circumscribed than the modern exponents of
      Vedanta would have us believe.”

      I just find it fascinating that the earliest of the Upanishads (Karikas aside) do not refer directly to samadhi. I think Comans is essentially correct that it is a term that has increased in importance as Yoga became more prominent but that the original teachings of Vedanta did not emphasize it.

  4. I am grateful to you Charles, for the kind words.

    Thanks also for a reference to Dr. Comans’ paper. Please allow me to make a couple of points with regard to the quote from it.
    (I am aware you may be already familiar with these, but let me record for the sake of general info for others).

    1. The statement that “The first point to be noted is that the word samadhi does not occur in the ten major Upanisads upon which Sankara has commented” made by Dr. Comans in his 1993 paper is immediately followed by referencing to a 1971 work of G. A. Jacob. I have not read Jacob’s 1971 book, but I suspect Comans was essentially relying on Jacob for this observation.

    I made a quick search with the keyword “samAdhi” on the Advaita Sharada database of the Sringeri math on the Shankara bhAshya-s. In addition to the references quoted by Venkat from mANDUkya (4 in all), the word ‘samAdhi’ also appears in the bhAshya-s of muNDaka and chAndogya. And, of course, also in brahma sUtra bhAshya (4 times) and BG (17 times). If we use other declensions of the word, additional references may come up.

    2. Dr. V. Sundaresan (VS – who wrote a Chapter on “Yoga in Shankaran Advaita” in the book edited by I. Whicher and D. Carpenter, 2003) observes as follows elsewhere:

    “Prof. Comans’s paper is very important indeed, but I think it does not
    adequately address one key discussion of brahmAtmavidyA and citta vRtti
    nirodha (which, by the way, is the definition of yoga/samAdhi) in the
    bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 1.4.7. ”

    VS further observes that “even early Upanishad texts like kaTha and svetAsvatara exhibit ample influence of yoga….and holds that “[Shankara] does tell us that scriptural passages regarding meditation on aum (muNDaka 2-2-6), about seeing, hearing, thinking of, and meditating on the Self (BU 2-4-5) and about investigating and knowing brahman (CU 8-7-1) teach samAdhi.”


    • Ramesam, thank you for the scholarly clarifications. These appear to be usages of the term samadhi in the commentaries and not the texts themselves, unless Gaudapada’s Karikas on Mandukya Upanishad are formally considered to be part of the Upanishad itself. But since Comans covers those references in his article anyway, I think we may be doing some unnecessary hair-splitting here. 🙂 My point was not that Shankara did not use the term, or that Yoga terminology did not become more important to Vedanta over time, but rather that the earliest of texts did not emphasize it. As you noted in your excellent post, some teachers represent samadhi as being of immense importance, to the extent that Liberation cannot occur without a samadhi experience. Clearly, this is not the position held by the sages who received the Upanishads.

  5. Charles,

    Might be worth getting a copy of Asparsa Yoga by Colin Cole:

    Gaudapada equates pure consciousness with amanasta or amanibhava, ‘non-mind’. The mind ceases to have the qualities associated with the discursive mind. There is said to be no agitation, no imagination, nor thinking. It ‘turns back’ from the dual world and thus having no relation with duality it is said to be in a condition of sameness or non-differentiation. Resting in itself it becomes identified with the non-dual Brahman and is thus liberated.
    Meditatively this is a unique condition of ‘still awareness’. It is called nirvikalpa samadhi from this religious or spiritual perspective. This is the esteemed condition which Gaudapada terms Asparsa Yoga. This is his designation for the unique non-dual orientation to both the means and the goal of the spiritual quest. In the Mandukyakarika it becomes the pivotal concept of his soteriological concern.

    [NB Cole points out in detail the difference between yogic and advaitic samadhi].

    • Thanks for the quote, Venkat. I have Cole’s book but it’s been a while since I perused it. I’m not sure if it was from that work or something Dennis had written, but I had a recollection that the etymology of “asparsa” was quite problematic. I’ll have to look further into this when I get a chance. But meanwhile, I wonder why would Gaudapada have used “asparsa yoga” if the term samadhi (which was already in use by then) mapped to his meaning. I guess I will say that I’m not sure I agree with Cole … yet. 🙂

  6. While it is not related to any specific point being discussed here, I would like to make a couple of general remarks from my own experience on our approach to the understanding of our ancient Vedantic scriptures.

    Western education in general and scientific studies in particular train and sharpen our intellectual capability and analytical acumen to be “precise” in expression. We take each word should connote a very specific concept without ambiguity. We hold ‘working group meetings’ and CODAC conferences to harmonize variations and evolve acceptable terminologies that avoid ‘confusion’ across a wide spectrum of possible stakeholders. So even a ‘road’ is a road and a ‘shoulder’ is a shoulder anywhere on our highways. We tend to make the word standardization so invariant that a ‘Big Mac burger’ could become a gold standard for the British journal The Economist in order to evolve ‘purchasing power parity’ (PPP) between different national currencies.

    Alas, this type of approach is totally futile towards the Upanishad lore. The same word prANa can mean right from the indescribable infinite brahman to a cubit sized limited individual. In fact there are instances in the Upanishads where the same word used twice in the very same mantra is given two totally opposite meanings!

    The evolution of the words too in Sanskrit accommodates this incomprehensible (to a Western trained mind) contradiction with pride. Let me illustrate this with the common word ‘annaM‘ which means food. We have two derivations for it:

    adyati iti annam = that which is eaten is food.

    And at the same time, we have:

    atti iti annam = that which eats is food.

    This shows the sameness of the eater and the eaten!
    (Extolled in a sense in the taittirIya Upanishad mantra III-x-9
    अहमन्नमहमन्नमहमन्नम् । अहमन्नादो३ऽहमन्नादो३ऽहमन्नादः
    I am food; I am food; I am food. I am eater of food; I am eater food; I am eater of food).

    Even today the Indian State language (Hindi) does not differentiate the past and future in its word ‘kal.’ ‘kal‘ can mean yesterday or tomorrow! And this word is all the time used without confusion in our daily life, whether it is a small child or a grown adult, in our talking and writing.

    So what is important in studying the scriptures is NOT looking for the presence or absence of a particular word – whether it is samAdhi or whatever – but to see if there is ‘broadly’ a concept indicated there in or not.

    In order to bolster my point, let me give two examples.

    The oft quoted words “sat-chit-Ananda” in the modern Advaita texts is not to be seen in the major Upanishads on which Shankara commented.

    akhaNDAkAra vRRitti / brahmAkAra vRRitti is another word concocted in post aupanishadic times.

    But there is a difference in those two words.

    The ‘concept’ of ‘sat-chit-Ananda‘ is very much there in the Upanishads.
    In contrast, IMHO, akhaNDAkAra vRRitti is an alien adaptation. (For, Advaita never bothered about the actual mechanics of perception at the visual organ and the body level. The vRRitti concept is relatively a recent explanation (perhaps 17th century) for the body level mechanics of perception of an object. This concept when extended to ‘perceiving’ brahman becomes akhaNDAkAra vRRitti).

    So a later introduction of words that are absent in the Upanishads per se may not be detested if we are certain that the general idea is there in them. But it is misleading to introduce or concoct words and word meanings that do not exist at all in the scriptures.


    • Thank you, Ramesam. This was a very helpful explication of some of the difficulties involved in applying modern understanding of word meaning to ancient texts.
      Best Regards,

  7. Do you look at the finger that is pointing, or the direction in which it is pointing?

  8. That’s the most ‘pithy’ expression that only Venkat can come up with!

    Thank you Venkat.


  9. I have to say that I disagree with the equating of (nirvikalpa) samAdhi with asparSha yoga. The latter effectively translates as ‘touchlessness’ and relates to the fact that Consciousness does not (cannot) ‘touch’ anything, because there is ONLY Consciousness. Gaudapada later uses the word nirviShaya for the same concept, in the sense of ‘nothing to do with objects, senses, concepts etc’. The former is an ‘experience’ on the part of a jIva, even if it is the experience of ‘nothing’ (or even of brahman, if you like). It has a beginning and an end in time. The latter does not even have anything to do with time.

  10. Dear Dennis,

    Talking in general terms in the spirit of my note (May 15, 2016 @ 15:49), and not with reference to a specific usage by an author, I submit as follows wrt: ashparsha yoga.

    shparsha means touch, contact.

    A touch or contact can happen implicitly when there are two or more.

    ashparsha, the negation of shparsha, poetically then means the absence of two or more and hence Oneness (particularly in the context of Gaudapada’s discussion in his kArikA-s). This way I can directly understand ashparsha means Oneness (without imagining ‘touchlessness’ as a meaning, as an intermittent step). We can then agree that ashparsha yoga is a direct reference to “being as Oneness.”

    As Swami Nikhilananda observes in his note at the GK III-37, samAdhi is used in the sense of “being as Oneness.” He says samAdhi here is “complete identity with non-dual brahman.” He also adds that “the Vedantic concept of samAdhi is different from any mystical or mechanical state described in the yoga system.” As you are aware, this sort of usage of the word samAdhi is also often found in prakaraNa grantha-s and even in Gita – samAdhi indicative of ‘imperturbable stability.’

    That being so, there should not be any problem to agree that ashparsha yoga is equivalent to samAdhi.

    Next comes the question whether the word samAdhi can be used with an adjective like nirvikalpa, asamprajnAta, nirbIja, etc. and then said to be equivalent to brahmIsthti as BG puts it in II- 72.

    Because the word nirvikalpa in your post is put within parenthesis, it is not clear to me whether your objection was with reference to samAdhi, qualified in one or the other way or samAdhi even in a generic sense as equivalent to ashparsha yoga.


  11. I entirely agree with your comments. Obviously, if we say that asparSha means ‘oneness’ and samAdhi means ‘oneness’, then there is no problem.

    I suggest, however, that the majority of seekers equate the word ‘samAdhi’ with its use by Patanjali in the Yogasutras. When speaking to them, therefore, we are obliged to point out the distinction.

    Here are some of the points I made in ‘A-U-M – Awakening to Reality’:

    Gaudapada calls this non-relationship with anything (because there are no others) asparsha yoga. The word sparsha literally means ‘touching’, so that some commentators call this ‘touch-less yoga’. Shankara says that it is so called because it is devoid of sparsha, a term which indicates all relations. Anandagiri says it is Advaita Anubhava – non-dual experience. (Ref. 54).

    It is interesting to note that the very word ‘relationship’, in Sanskrit, entails bondage. The word for ‘relationship’ is sambandha and this is effectively two words – sam, meaning ‘connected with, together with’, and bandha, meaning ‘bondage, binding, chain, attachment to the world’.

    Gaudapada probably derives the word asparsha from the Bhagavad Gita. In Chapter 5, verse 21 talks about how one acquires the bliss that is one’s Self by being unattached to external objects and uses the word sparsha to refer to objects that are ‘contacted’ (via the senses). Verse 22 says that, although we initially get pleasure from this contact, it invariably leads to sorrow and wise people avoid such contact. Accordingly, the notion of asparsha yoga embodies the idea of renouncing sense pleasures in the knowledge that they bind us to the mithyA world.

    Both Swami Chinmayananda and Richard King point out the paradoxical nature of the term ‘Asparsha Yoga’ since the first word emphasizes that there can be no relationship while the second is about the union of two things (yoga means ‘joining together’ or even ‘contact with’!). V. H. Date (Ref. 18) suggests that “asparsha indicates that brahman cannot be touched by anything else, but that yoga indicates that brahman can touch everything else.”

    Colin Cole summarizes the meaning as follows (Ref. 11): “On the philosophical level, the term implies the realization of non-duality, i.e. of turIya or brahman. In this sense it could be called the ‘non-dual yoga’ or the ‘yoga of the non-dual’. On the level of religious practice, the term refers to the discipline, path, method or  
    process whereby the sAdhaka attains this condition of being one with Ultimate Reality.” [sAdhaka means ‘seeker’.]

    Michael Comans’ view (Ref. 13) is that it is not a practice for attaining enlightenment at all. It follows from Self-knowledge. It is the abiding in the knowledge of the non-dual Self (j~nAna niShTha) and it is a ‘practice’ to the extent that it means maintaining the mind in this attitude.

  12. Thanks to Ramesam for a stimulating and professorial presentation, to Venkat for opening another enlightening route (that of Marshi), to Charles for adding further clarifications and comments, and of course to Dennis (May 16, on meaning and usage of ‘asparsha’, etc.).

    Some of the terms used by Shankara – e.g. yoga, samadhi, anubhava, nididhyasana (otherwise called at times Dhyana yoga), sushupti – can and do cause confusion due to the various contexts in which they appear and the tinges they are thus coloured with. Ramesam (May 15) draws one’s attention to the peculiarities or vagaries of Sanskrit as it has developed throughout time, and also to the flexibility of that language – and of the Indian mentality (Note I did not say ‘the vagaries’ of the Indian mentality!). As follows:

    In his commentaries Shankara uses ‘yoga’ sometimes as a variant of upasana or of nididhyasana (cf. book reference below).

    If, as Charles and Venkat remind us, samadhi is Brahman Itself, Anubhava (or Atmanubhava) is also another name for Brahman, and the same goes for Sakshi (Witness). But names, or concepts, are only signifiers or pointers, not actually the ‘thing’ or reality signified by them. Therefore (one is prompted to absorb), only when there is no thinking or discriminating among ‘external’ objects (anubhavya) – there being no objects to discrimínate among – the mind is said to become no-mind, and this is the effortless natural state (sahaja samadhi) – self-realization by another name.

    Samadhi is usually associated with the idea of effort, unlike the natural state which can also be rendered as, or be associated with, Akshara and with Sushupti (deep sleep). (for the last, cf. Katha 6-6; Mandukya 5; Brih. 2-1-17).

    ‘He [Shankara] has never stated that samadhi, Savikalpa or Nirvikalpa (trance with or without thought construction), is the result of nididhyasana. As for the Shruti, it expressly declares that nididhyasana is a direct means to intuitive vision of Atman.’ (Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta’, by Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati).

    The same author states that upasana and nididhyasana are means of mental acts involving a repeated process; only nididhyasana is a particular species of upasana (SBh. 4-1-1). “But in the case of those endowed with an adroit mind unhindered by ignorance, doubt, or misconception, the futiliity of repetitiom of these disciplines must certainly be admitted, since they would be able to intuit the meaning of the text ‘That Thou art’ even when it is taught them but once” (SBh. 4-1-2).

  13. For me, the great problem of Vedanta is the terminology used to describe every kind of phenomenon (arisings) and the commentaries of commentaries of commentaries. As people here are fond of saying it’s not the finger that is pointing, it is what it is pointing at. Okay.

    If we are seeing what is pointed at, are we seeing more words, more arisings? Or, has wisdom, intuitive understanding, taken place, and that all phenomenon are rightly perceived as ephemeral and without a self attached to them. Through this wisdom, nothing is adhered to and the skandhas begin to be dismantled by the power of this wisdom. There is no effort to change, suppress, or control anything. Things are seen as they are and lose the power of their deception. They are not us, because mind no longer sees through a veil of ‘me’. All terminology is useless at this point because analysis has stopped. The comparative mind has stopped.

  14. Anon,

    “If we are seeing what is pointed at, are we seeing more words, more arisings? ”

    That’s an interesting question – perhaps ‘the question.’

    Martin answered very clearly in his very thoughtful Comments (of May 24):
    ” only when there is no thinking or discriminating among ‘external’ objects (anubhavya) – there being no objects to discrimínate among – the mind is said to become no-mind, and this is the effortless natural state..”

    Non-conceptualization or Non-configuration of objects (padArdha ahbAvana) is said to be the essential feature then.

    The word “dRik” is used in Advaita Vedanta to signify the ‘Seer’ when there is no-thing to be seen. S/He is the jIvanmukta.

    Who can answer the question on your behalf?
    Each seer will know the answer by himself / herself.

    Perhaps a ‘teaching’ will always arise as long as there are seekers raising the question.


  15. Ramesam,

    When someone like Martin makes a statement like ‘only when there is no thinking or discriminating among external objects-there being no objects to discriminate among-the mind is said to become no-mind, and this is the effortless natural state’, I wonder if this is Martin’s literal experience or is he taking the statement of someone else and substituting this for his own realization? I would say probably the latter is true and that Martin may only have a theoretical understanding and is substituting more words that arise in his own mind as ‘that which the finger is pointing to’. All of us do this to one extent or another. I’m not blaming Martin for this.

    I would go as far to say that generally speaking, it is not possible for a practitioner to see what the so called finger is pointing to because of the immense deception that our minds have been working under, that body and mind are us and there is a self attached to body and mind. Contemplation of this very state is needed for wisdom to manifest and reveal to the mind the nature of all phenomenon. The first genuine awakening to the nature of mind and body is that they are temporary, not fixed, and have no self attached to any of their phenomenon. This wisdom, this realization, is carried on through deeper levels of phenomenon/experience, but the initial wisdom is the same, all phenomenon are temporary, not us, and without self. There is no state that is exempt from this wisdom. Anyone can come to this, but the price is letting go of the conceptual and analytical mind, all religious and philosophical models, anything that arises. One has to come face to face with this in this present moment. It is like a light being turned on in your being. You have no control over it and the danger of making it into something to hold on to is also overwhelming. Only through contemplation of body and mind, your actual experience, can this light/wisdom be stabilized, not by your control, but by seeing the nature of experience over and over again. But, first things first. Let wisdom arise and show you there is no self to be found anywhere, be it Atman, Brahman, Nirvana, or whatever.

  16. During a recent debate in Quora my interlocutor asked me the following question:


    ‘In your second paragraph, you say that the differences you perceive in our respective understandings come down to how we see Non Duality. It therefore would seem relevant to ask of you whether you have in fact ‘seen it’. Perhaps it would be better to say, ‘has it seen you?’ You have cited others, and with impressive erudition of your own, but has ND actualized within your own direct experience, or are you taking your cited references and using them as your sole yardstick? To be clear, I am not asking for you to affirm or deny any putative self-realization, which as I said before seems altogether unnecessary and a most unhelpful distinction when it comes to territory beyond distinctions. I respectfully ask this of you because your own wording invites the question, but also because I am conscious of you avoiding couching any actualized experience in your own terms. This may simply be your preference for referencing things as if academically, always citing sources, and so forth, and which is perfectly fair enough.’

    This was my reply:

    To ask a purported individual or person [i.e. a separate body-mind from the empirical perspective] whether s/he is enlightened or self-realized is an impossible question. Or rather, it is self-defeating if the person gives, or indicates, an affirmative reply. And this is so on two counts: from the empirical side because the person asking the question shows lack of understanding of what realization – identical with Non-duality – is or consists of. And from the higher, spiritual or metaphysical perspective of ND because the category of individuality – or plurality – simply does not exist; there are only insubstantial, fleeting phenomena, though some of them (‘gross’) may appear as solid.

    In other words: there is no such thing as a self-realized person or individual. The Neo-Advaitans are right after all!

  17. “… there is no such thing as a self-realized person or individual. The Neo-Advaitans are right after all!”


    Just as much as a so-called answer appears to get spilled through a body-mind-frame, the so-called question too seems to have got spurted out from a body-mind-frame. Jerks in sound vibrations rising and attenuating.

    Nothing for any ‘one’ to ‘pocket’ and claim as ‘mine’ — the so-called question or the so-called answer.

    However, some-body-mind-frames work with a center devoted to the service of that specific finite frame; some body-mind-frames work with no such (or any type of) center. Actions just happen through these. They get the name jIvanmukta-s.


  18. Both responses from Ramesam and Martin seem like philosophical positions that are only interesting to those who are interested in philosophical approaches, intellectual explanations which really don’t reveal any kind of transformative wisdom.

    Who said anything about a ‘self-realized’ person? These are your toys. Enlightenment? I think you are both hiding behind a veil of conceptual logic that has usurped your abilities to see things the way they are. It is this very framework that keeps you as ‘talking heads’.

    Interlocutor? Who uses this kind of word to describe someone who is having a conversation with you?

    Both of you want to create schematics, charts, elaborate explanations of how things are. It’s just so unnecessary. It’s so much simpler than what you both go on about. Truth is free of all of this stuff. It’s the attachment to your mind that keeps it all going. It’s interpreting everything and you are identified with it. But on closer inspection, there is only thought. There is no ‘you’ attached or identified, or unattached and not identified. It’s an enormous deception and until you come face to face with this, you go on with the content of your thinking, believing that somehow, you are understanding something. Self realization is part of this content as well as enlightenment, God, etc. But neither one of you really see this deception except in an intellectual way and this is not nearly the same thing as what the finger is pointing at.

    • “Interlocutor? Who uses this kind of word to describe someone who is having a conversation with you?”

      Look up Shankara’s comments on those who possess more than “middling intellect,” and you will have your answer.

      I doubt you will get the joke, but I’m confident that Martin and Ramesam will. 🙂


  19. Anon,


    Those golden words cannot fail to ring a bell in you.

    Or is it that you are so firmly locked in in your adherence to the UG-isque formulations that you apparently seem to be lost when other types of pointers, symbols get to be used and thereby miss noticing what they are pointing to?

    How could you ignore that the message repeatedly coming out in these columns is no different from, but perhaps worded in a different way, what you wrote: “The first genuine awakening to the nature of mind and body is that they are temporary, not fixed, and have no self attached to any of their phenomenon”?

    But at the same time, you betray your expectations by bemoaning that the postings here are merely “… intellectual explanations which really don’t reveal any kind of transformative wisdom ….”

    On the other hand, you write that “…. it is not possible for a practitioner to see what the so called finger is pointing to because of the immense deception that our minds have been working under, that body and mind are us and there is a self attached to body and mind,……. [an] enormous deception and until you come face to face with [it.]”

    Can any words be transformative?

    And remember, all words, even proper names are ‘thoughts.’

    Ramesam, Martin, Steve, Ram, Sam, Anon are all stories, bunches of thoughts — what they mean to you is what ‘interpretation’ you give to them.

    Thoughts themselves hide. They do not need other veils to hide behind.
    And that is the very first thing to know. That requires some courage.

    And, of course, we don’t go about declaring that “Thought is your enemy.”
    We say go beyond (prior to the origination of) thought and see what the “substance” the thought is made up of, the very ground where it originates from, sustained by and dissolves into.


  20. So, what is your point? What does any of what you write have to do with the ‘deception’ of self trying to free itself into some kind of ‘self-realization’? This is your goal, your destination for a self that does not exist outside of mind.

    I am not disagreeing with many of your points.

    Am I incorrect in saying that intellectual understanding is not the same as ‘wisdom’? That intellectual understanding veils what is being pointed to?

    Unfortunately, you cannot see the ‘substance’ that thought is made up of. There is no beyond. This is a statement made by an illusory self that wants to attain something. It is another craving that is not seen as it is. It is gleaned from your culture, thousands of years of indoctrination. How are you going to free yourself from this? It is an illusion, Ramesam, a great deception that has taken place. If you don’t see this, you are on the wrong track.

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