Does spiritual practice empower the ego?

Does sAdhana (spiritual practice) empower the ego?
An essay by Atman Nityananda

If you abandon sAdhana in order to avoid this sAdhana-ego you are left with nothing except egoism. Egoism plus sAdhana is better than egoism minus sAdhana.
~Swami Sivananda

Liberation is the dissolution or the death of the ego which is a field of energy crystallized in our bodies. Liberation has nothing to do with an enlightened ego. There cannot ever be an enlightened or liberated ego.

Liberation is neither for the ego nor for the consciousness which is already free. Liberation is for the mind. When the mind after intense spiritual practice (sAdhana) becomes free from all egoistic tendencies, rajas and tamas then liberation takes place for none and the mind celebrates its unity with the spirit or Consciousness.

But some neo-advaita or non-teachers as they call themselves like Tony Parsons claim that the spiritual practices empower the ego instead of dissolve it. They claim that is impossible the ego to be eliminated by sAdhana by the very fact that the sAdhana is done by the ego. They say that sAdhana and the dissolution of ego is a contradiction because the ego itself is engaged in sAdhana and this keeps the ego alive.

They think like this:

. Who wants the liberation? The ego wants it.

. Who does spiritual practices (meditation, japa nama, prayer, purification etc.)? The ego does it.

. If the ego does everything how can the ego die?

By thinking like this they conclude that by doing spiritual practices, the ego perpetuates its existence and maintains in us the illusory sense of a separate mind-body entity who acts with an apparent free will.

These arguments appear logical and reasonable but they are a fallacy. It is obvious that these people ignore what is spiritual life and sAdhana and what really happens in the inner life of a sAdhaka.

I put here my arguments that show the fallacy of these neo-advaita opinions.

For thousands of years great spiritual masters like Buddha, Jesus Christ, Pythagoras, Nisargadatta, Shankaracharya, Swami Sivananda, and many others became enlightened by doing rigorous sAdhana (spiritual practices) for a long time. After their enlightenment they gave to the public certain spiritual teachings and practices to help all those who were ready to follow the spiritual path in order to eliminate their ego and realize Oneness or God consciousness.

All these great masters are divine incarnations and radiate fully the divine light, wisdom and love. They have a powerful spiritual aura that can transform any human being who is in resonance with them. The very fact that all these divine beings have spread their teachings to humanity and have called people to practice them is an unquestionable proof that liberation is possible by doing spiritual practices.

Let see now what really happens by doing sAdhana in order to dissolve the ego and realize the Truth.

First of all I want to declare with emphasis that we are not on the spiritual path because of the ego, and that the spiritual practices are not done by the ego. Our true Self propels us to find the truth and not the ego and the sAdhana is done by the body, the mind, the senses and the vital energy. It is true that the ego claims that it is the agent or the doer of the practices and the ego also thinks that the impulse to find the truth is also a desire of its own, which it is not. As I said, this longing for freedom and unity comes from our heart within, and not from the ego.

It is natural for these two illusions to happen, because in the beginning of the spiritual journey the ego is the center of our life; it is strong and plays the agent of everything that happens in us.

It is certain that the ego is entangled in sAdhana, and is also obvious that the ego wants to prevent us from doing sAdhana.

Swami SIVANANDA says that ego can be classified into three kinds:

“There are three kinds of Ahankara, viz., Sattvic egoism, Rajasic egoism and Tamasic egoism. Sattvic egoism will not bind a man to Samsara. It will help the aspirant to attain the final emancipation.”

Thus, it becomes clear that there is a part of the ego and mind also, the sattvic one, which help us to eliminate the lower tamaso-rajasic one which creates many obstacles in order to make us abandon the sAdhana. The ego knows that, by following a spiritual path, life will lose its pleasures and that sAdhana will cause it to be eliminated. In the beginning we cannot avoid all these things because we are strongly identified with the ego and our buddhi is hypnotized and manipulated by the egoistic energies.

It is a fact that the ego wants desperately to survive and tries its best to achieve this by any means. That is why many follow the spiritual path but very few (until now) have succeeded in this endeavor.

During our spiritual journey the ego creates many illusory identifications, projections and superimpositions in order to prevent the buddhi, (intellect, intelligence) from becoming conscious of the ego-tricks. Ego tries its best to cloud the Buddhi because it is certain that, if the ego’s identifications and illusions are revealed by the power of discernment of the buddhi, then the ego will lose its sovereignty over the mind and intellect. Then, little by little, the ego-energy will dissolve by the power of spiritual practices and the divine energies that are invoked by the aspirant.

As a result of firm and decisive sAdhana, the egoistic energies and tendencies gradually are eliminated and after years of practice the ego becomes very thin and weak. This enables us to practice easily and without effort deep meditation and samAdhi. By practicing deep meditation and samAdhi, the ego fades more and more and the mind becomes still, serene, objectless and is absorbed in its center (pure Consciousness, Beingness, Existence, tell it as you like).

When the samAdhi deepens by ceaseless practice and by the grace of God (and the grace of God is assured for anyone who sincerely seeks the Union with Him), the ego cannot find any support and dissolves totally and forever (in deep Nirvikalpa Samadhi). Then freedom or liberation is achieved.

According to my experience and understanding we can see the case of enlightenment in the following way:

When a man wants to earn money there are two possibilities: The first is to work hard and intelligently and little by little to get it. The other is to wait by doing nothing until the day (if ever comes that day, who knows) to win the lottery or receive a rich inheritance.

Similar is the case with liberation. The first possibility is that someone can wait until liberation happens accidentally (if it will happen at all) and the other is to do something (sAdhana) methodically and systematically according the guidance and the teachings of enlightened masters or advanced sAdhaka-s. (If one has a good karma, it is possible that this will happen relatively soon and easily).

Of course enlightenment and bondage from the absolute point of view are illusory. What ever existed, exists and will exist is only boundless freedom and unconditional love and bliss.

It is obvious that until the achievement (by no-one) of the state of liberation (in reality it is not a state but I cannot communicate better through words), this 3D world and the individual seeker with his pleasurable and painful experiences will appear as a solid reality.

I conclude with a few verses from Vivekachudamani (one of the best Advaita books written by Adisankaracharya one of the greatest advaita Hindu masters of the past):

  1. Bondage and Liberation, which are conjured up by Maya, do not really exist in the Atman, one’s Reality, as the appearance and exit of the snake do not abide in the rope, which suffers no change.
  1. Bondage and Liberation may be talked of when there is the presence or absence of a covering veil. But there can be no covering veil for Brahman, which is always uncovered for want of a second thing besides Itself. If there be, the non-duality of Brahman will be contradicted, and the Shrutis can never brook duality.
  1. Bondage and Liberation are attributes of the Buddhi which ignorant people falsely superimpose on the Reality, as the covering of the eyes by a cloud is transferred to the sun. For this Immutable Brahman is Knowledge Absolute, the One without a second and unattached.
  1. The idea that bondage exists, and the idea that it does not, are, with reference to the Reality, both attributes of the Buddhi merely, and never belong to the Eternal Reality, Brahman.
  1. Hence this bondage and Liberation are created by Maya, and are not in the Atman. How can there be any idea of limitation with regard to the Supreme Truth, which is without parts, without activity, calm, unimpeachable, taintless, and One without a second, as there can be none with regard to the infinite sky ?
  1. There is neither death nor birth, neither a bound nor a struggling soul, neither a seeker after Liberation nor a liberated one – this is the ultimate truth.

Peace, Love and harmony

31 thoughts on “Does spiritual practice empower the ego?

  1. There are some good points here, and of course I support your condemnation of the neo-Advaitin approach. But I would like to challenge a few things in your essay.

    1) Since you concede that liberation is not for the ego, why talk about ‘death of the ego’? The ego can continue quite happily in the j~nAnI, albeit in an attenuated form (i.e. there is no longer any adverse reaction if things do not go ‘the way I want’). Indeed, as I have argued before, there has to remain an ego in order that the j~nAnI may continue to function in the world.

    2) I think that, for most seekers (if not all), the spiritual search IS for the ego when it begins; it IS the ego that wants to become liberated and it is the ego that drives the sAdhana. It thinks that the spiritual search will bring rewards for ‘me’. But the practice entails the growing realization that the ego is not who I am and this leads inevitably to the ‘attenuation’ as I put it.

    Also the idea that the ego engages in some sort of battle with the buddhi to maintain its integrity is rather fanciful. Rather what happens is simply argumentation in manas between those growing ideas that spiritual practices will bring benefit (whereas following the usual desires will only lead to the usual disappointments) and the desires themselves, which have always won in the past.

    3) nirvikalpa samAdhi is still an event in time, with a beginning and an end; it is not mokSha and does not bring mokSha. Only Self-knowledge can bring an end to Self-ignorance.

    4) Most academics agree that Shankara did not write vivekachUDAmaNi.

    • 4). vivekachUDAmaNi was the favor book of Swami Sivananda and Ramana Maharshi translated himself the vivekachUDAmaNi.This approve its validity. This is enough for me.

      3). Awakening is also an event that happens in time but it is timeless. NIrvikalpa Samadhi also happens in time but during it the ego dies totally and for ever. This is what Sivananda says. It is not my experience but I believe him without any doubt.

      “Brahman (Divine consciousness, true Self) can be clearly and definitely realised only through Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Samadhi ensues only when the purified mind is merged in Brahman.”
      ~ Swami Sivananda

      “The force of impressions (samskaras and vasanas) is tremendous. Unless all the impressions are thoroughly burnt through entry into the state of the pure Nirvikalpa Samadhi, it is not safe for one to stay a long time in one’s native place. He will still be in the danger zone.
      ~ Swami Sivananda

      342. Even wise men cannot suddenly destroy egoism after it has once become strong, barring those who are perfectly calm through the Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Desires are verily the effect of innumerable births.

      362. When the mind, thus purified by constant practice, is merged in Brahman, then Samadhi passes on from the Savikalpa to the Nirvikalpa stage, and leads directly to the realisation of the Bliss of Brahman, the One without a second.

      363. By this Samadhi are destroyed all desires which are like knots, all work is at an end, and inside and out there takes place everywhere and always the spontaneous manifestation of one’s real nature (Atman, Brahman , consciousness).

      364. Reflection should be considered a hundred times superior to hearing, and meditation a hundred thousand times superior even to reflection, but the Nirvikalpa Samadhi is infinite in its results.

      365. By the Nirvikalpa Samadhi the truth of Brahman is clearly and definitely realised, but not otherwise, for then the mind, being unstable by nature, is apt to be mixed up with other perceptions.
      ~Adisankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani

  2. 1) My point of view is that there is not ego in a Jnani. Ego cannot continue happily. It is suffering by nature. There is only a remanence of sattva in the mind of a Jnani says Sivananda by which the Jnani can remain in contact with the world and give his teachings.

    The realised man is egoless; he has lost the capacity of identifying himself with anything. He is without location, placeless, beyond space and time, beyond the world. Beyond words and thoughts is he. ~ NISARGADATTA
    verse 304. Through the complete cessation of egoism, through the stoppage of the diverse mental waves due to it, and through the discrimination of the inner Reality, one realises that Reality as “I am This”.

    Those who live a perfect life of Mei-Jnana, attained by the destruction of the impure ego .
    When the ego dies, its base, the supreme Self, shines in all Its fullness. No harm comes to You, Self, when the ego dies.
    ª Ramana Maharshi
    ” A Jivanmukta is a liberated sage. He is emancipated while living. He has cut off all bonds. He has destroyed his mind.
    He has identified himself with Brahman or the Absolute Consciousness. He has no identification with the body. He is free from egoism, lust, anger, greed, selfishness, pride, likes, dislikes, exhilaration or depression. He radiates joy and peace everywhere.”
    ~ Swami Sivananda
    I will tell you more precicely what happens when I will achieve the dissolution in my Self. i hope soon.


    2) YOU SAY :I think that, for most seekers (if not all), the spiritual search IS for the ego when it begins; it IS the ego that wants to become liberated and it is the ego that drives the sAdhana. It thinks that the spiritual search will bring rewards for ‘me’. But the practice entails the growing realization that the ego is not who I am and this leads inevitably to the ‘attenuation’ as I put it.
    I AGREE. Only I change the word ‘attenuation’ with death or dissolution of ego

    YOU SAY: Also the idea that the ego engages in some sort of battle with the buddhi to maintain its integrity is rather fanciful. Rather what happens is simply argumentation in manas between those growing ideas that spiritual practices will bring benefit (whereas following the usual desires will only lead to the usual disappointments) and the desires themselves, which have always won in the past.
    ANSWER: The resistance of the ego is tremendous. The ego hypnotizes and uses the intellect for its own purposes. The viveka, detached observrtion and pure reasoning which is the real power of intellect disfunctions due to the egoic energies. The ego has thousand ways to keep the intellect deluded. That’s why very little achieve self realization.

    You must have very clear understanding of the nature of this ego, if you want to annihilate egoism.
    Killing of egoism is killing of mind only. Destruction of thought, desires, cravings, mineness, selfishness, jealousy, pride, lust is really destruction of mind or egoism. Control of senses also is annihilation of the mind or egoism.
    The working of egoism is very mysterious. It is very difficult to detect its various ways of working. It needs a subtle and sharp intellect to find out its operation. If you practise introspection daily in silence you will be able to find out its mysterious ways of working.

    THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE TOO. The ego have many defence mechanisms and other ways to keep us under its dominion. The great battle of life is that of the higher intellect with the impure mind and ego.

  3. Nirvikalpa samadhi is the ultimate aim of Yoga philosophy, as propounded by Patanjali. Vyasa refutes Yoga in Brahma Sutra 2.1.3. Shankara points out that we (the Advaitins) make use of Yoga techniques because they are so good in respect of preparing the mind (sAdhana chatuShTAya sampatti) but the tenets of Yoga are ultimately rejected.

    In samAdhi, the ‘divisions in the mind’ disappear – true – but so do they in deep sleep. The argument goes that, in nirvikalpa samAdhi, these divisions also go, but now we are awake. And Patanjali was clearly the greatest practitioner and supposedly attained the thoughtless state and realized his own nature.

    But, says Shankara, how is it then that Patanjali, having realized the absolute truth about the nature of reality in this manner, claims that the world is real and that there are many Atmas? Nirvikalpa samAdhi clearly does not bring the mokSha as per Advaita.

    • As I quote above in Vivekachudamani Sankaracharya who is an advaitin (not a raga yogi) refers to Nirvikalpa samadhi
      as the ultimate men for self-realization.

      This verse is very clear and there is not space for misunderstanding. Of course we are free to believe this statement of Sankara as true or not.

      365. By the Nirvikalpa Samadhi the truth of Brahman is clearly and definitely realised, but not otherwise, for then the mind, being unstable by nature, is apt to be mixed up with other perceptions.
      ~Adisankaracharya’s Vivekachudamani

  4. Dennis, for the avoidance of doubt, Vivekachudamani is a text that was explicitly recommended not only by Ramana, but also by both the 34th and 35th Sankaracharyas of Sringeri, and also by the past Sankaracharya of Kanchi. I’d be fascinated to hear if you believe that they are not authoritative.

    I have also quoted Sankara’s upadesa sahasri where, in the chapter of a dialogue between atma and mind, the atma tells the mind to cease its activities. Similar points abound in Yoga Vasistha.

    • I also explicitly recommend Vivekachudamani – it is a work of great clarity. I have not studied all the works of Shankara, his teachers and disciples in the original Sanskrit so that I can pick up on use of words and concepts that indicated inconsistencies and contradictions. Many others have in the course of their academic studies and the concensus is that Shankara did not write this.

      As noted, he also clearly states elsewhere that samAdhi, although a valuable practice, cannot remove Self-ignorance. And, since this is totally in accord with reason, I support this contention, in accordance with the guidance of Gaudapada.

  5. The simple advice of Jacopone da Todi relating to ‘sadhana’ and what is called ‘ego’:

    Oh, the futility of seeking to convey
    With images and feelings
    That which surpasses all measure!
    The futility of seeking
    To make infinite power ours!
    Thought cannot come to certainty of belief
    And there is no likeness of God
    That is not flawed.

    Hence, if He should call you,
    Let yourself be drawn to Him.
    He may lead you to a great truth.
    Do not dwell on yourself, nor should you—
    A creature subject to multiplicity and change—seek Him;
    Rest in tranquility, loftier than action or feeling,
    And you will find that as you lose yourself
    He will give you strength.

    Be pleased to remain where it pleases Him to place you.
    Straining to find Him is of no avail;
    Be at peace with yourself. If He embraces you,
    Return His embrace, but do not feel wronged
    When He absents Himself. Give no thought to yourself;
    If you love as you should, you will be filled with joy,
    Because that love in itself
    Glows with a light that does not fail.

    You know that you can only possess
    To the extent that He will give;
    What He withholds you cannot acquire;
    Nor can you hold onto what you have
    Unless He grants you that grace.Your path from beginning to end
    Lies beyond your power;
    The choice is not yours but the Lord’s………..

  6. I can recommend this excellent article by Michael Comans: “The question of the importance of Samadhi in modern and classical Advaita Vedanta.”

    In it, he refers to the scriptural commentaries in which Shankara uses the term ‘samAdhi’ and the related meanings and arguments. The fact that Shankara does so only in the ways explained is one of the principal reasons why scholars conclude that he could not have written Vivekachudamani in which those ideas are so blatantly contradicted.

  7. My understnding is that Ultimately Self-realization is a matter of practice and direct experience, not a field of argumentation and philosophical exploration.

    The teachings of masters are only a map which help us to develop our innate capacities and march towards the goal, not to be lost in them.

    Everyone must find its own way, and realie truth in his own unique way.

    • The poem by Jacopone da Todi addresses both those who seek through the intellect and those who seek through practice and experience. Ultimately, both have no value as it is all God’s doing, not yours. Any movement away from this represents the repetition of all self centered activity. Jacopone and many other sages knew what it meant to allow the Divine to devour them. It is not a matter of exchanging a small s (self) for a bigger S (Self); Nor the practice of any method of control, restraint, or desire for liberation. The dissolution of ego, self, or whatever you want to call this body/mind complex is a transcendental occurence that Jacopone says has nothing to do with your wanting it. He says: ‘Straining to find HIm is of no avail.’ UG said: ‘The first thing that has to stop is your seeking’.
      To me, that is the only kind of ‘faith’, ‘abidance’, and ‘contemplation’ that actually helps one in this life.

  8. You do not have to practise to become what you already are. And clearly experiencing what you already are is of no help. The problem is that you do not KNOW that you are brahman. In order to dispel this ignorance, knowledge is the only thing that will work. And this applies to everyone.

    • This opinion is of neo-advaita and is far away from the original teachings and spirituality.

      Only very ripe souls can realize their true nature easily but they also have to stabilze in it. Maharshi spend many years meditading after his experience at the age of 15.

      Fast food realization is western’s invention, But neverthless all this is God lila!

      Note: By the way, How do you know what I know?

      • If you are brahman (and this is the contention of traditional Advaita), then you must be brahman now. This is simply a statement of fact. (If A = B, then A = B) If your experience says that you are not brahman, then clearly your experience must be wrong. If the problem is NOT that you do not know that you are brahman, then what is it?

        I am only making straightforward, irrefutable statements here; and it is certainly fully in accord with scripture; there is no neo-advaita here! (And, just because it is simple, it certainly does not make it ‘fast food’ which, incidentally, is a term that I coined, I believe!)

        • Realization is not a matter of mathematics. It is a matter of purity of antahakarana which make the buddhi luminous, sharp, one-pointed and discriminative.

          To purify the antahakarana is a diifficult task and needs courage, patience, perseverence, tenacity, faith, determination and most of all intense longing for liberation.

          The buddhi can easily by the grace of God realize its identity with Brahman, and then to stabilize in it.

          Sivananda says:
          Perfection is attained when the intellect becomes as pure as the Atman itself!

          This is possible by incesant meditation or Vichara of tje purified mind and buddhi until the ego and all vasanas and samskaras aven in their seed form in the anandamaya kosha dissolve totally and for ever.

          I konw that the egoic self desnt’t like this process but this is it.

          • You have to remember that what we are discussing here is Advaita. So I assume that you accept that there are not two things – there is only brahman. There cannot be brahman AND a person who has to purify an intellect in order that he or she can BECOME brahman.

            Similarly, if you are being pedantically correct, you cannot say that this realization is achieved by the grace of God, because that would be at least 3 things.

            So, as I said, since there is only brahman, we must be brahman now. There is nothing to be done, or that could be done, to bring about this already existing state of affairs. If you know this to be so, you have Self-knowledge, If you do not know it then, in order to become ‘enlightened’, you have to acquire that knowledge.

            Realization is of the mind. Yes, only a still mind that really wants this knowledge is able to receive and assimilate it, so that the practices that you speak of really help. But the bottom line is that only the knowledge will remove the ignorance of this already-existing fact. You could go into samAdhi until your body was on the brink of death but, on coming out of it to take some food, you would still be ignorant.

            • We simply have different understanding about advaita and how we can realize our true nature.

              Advaita includes also the process of sadhana (purification- medtitation and vichara)

              There is not even one great master from India that says that sadhana is not necessary.

              Of course Awakening in itself doesn’t happen due to some spesific practice. But the practice has prepared the mind for it.

              Moreover after awakening practice and especially meditation or vichara is necessary until all samskaras and vasanas and ego itself die for ever and the abidance in the SELF is unobstructed and effortless. Until the peace and bliss of the Self it is expressed completely.

              Maharshi who is considered as one of the greatest masters of advaita says about sadhana and realization:

              – ‘No one success without effort and the successful few own their victory to perseverance.’

              – ‘Effort must be made to eradicate the vasanas. Jnana can only remain unshaken after all the vasanas are rooted out.’

              – ‘The Ego must, die, must vanish along with the inherent vasanas’.

              – ‘It is only by the mind that is impure and is under the influence of rajas and tamas that Reality (i.e., the Self) which is very subtle and unchanging cannot be experienced;

              – ‘But in the pure mind that has been rendered subtle and unmoving by the meditation described above, the Self bliss (i.e., Brahman) will become manifest.”
              ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

              If you think that you don’t need to do meditation or vichara it is ok. Everyone lives according his understanding.
              How could be otherwise?

              Peace. love. harmony.

              • Dear Atma Nityananda Ji
                Advaita Understanding is and should be the same for every one.
                Some of us have come just up to “Aham Brahma Asmi” but still feel this is’nt it! That is when we come to realize that the very sadhana being performed as a separate i is becoming an obstruction. Hence, we have to drop it just like a branch of tree used to stir the funeral pyre fire has to be eventually thrown into the fire.
                There was an interesting discussion on this subject in the attached AV Blog.


                • Dear Atma Nityananda Ji (Pls ignore the first one)
                  Advaita Understanding is and should be the same for every one.
                  Some of us have come just up to “Aham Brahma Asmi” but still feel this is’nt it! That is when we come to realize that the very sadhana being performed as a separate i is becoming an obstruction. Hence, we have to drop it just like a branch of tree used to stir the funeral pyre fire has to be eventually thrown into the fire. And what is left is just the knowledge or Brahman or the one that has no name.
                  There was an interesting discussion on this subject in the attached AV Blog.


                • Dear vijay,

                  Without purity of mind advaita meditation dpesn’t work.

                  Aham Brahmasmi is the ultimate step of jnana yoga.

                  Sama, dama, uparati, samadhana, sradha, titiksa, viveka , vaiagya must be cultivated in a higj degree..
                  Otherwise meditation or vichara are fruitless

                  Om peace

  9. Practice is usually necessary (to ‘prepare’ the mind of the seeker) but it is not sufficient.

    Here is what Shankara says in Upadesha Sahasri (which scholars agree IS the work of Shankara) (Metrical part 1.6 – 7):

    Not being incompatible with ignorance, actions do not destroy it; it is knowledge alone that does it. Ignorance not being destroyed, the destruction of desire and aversion is not possible. Actions caused by impurities are sure to follow in case desire and aversion are not removed. Knowledge alone, therefore, is taught here so that liberation may be accomplished.

    • I suppose when you say knowledge is necessary you mean direct experiential knowledge. According my understanding When Sankara says knowledge is the mean of Self-realization doesn’t mean theoritical knowledge but direct knowledge through meditation on mahavakyas, Om or Vichara.

      Moreover if advaita and jnana yoga which is the pratical part of advaita was the only way that leads to Self-realization then nobody could realize truth with a different way. But this is not the case. Many have realized truth by different ways. I hope that you don’t believe that the only way to realize truth is advaita and jnana yoga

      Maharshi also declaired that bhakti marga and jnana marga are one and the same. I say that there are also other ways also to realize truth.

      The main requesits for Self-realization are purity of mind and devotion. A pure mind devoted to God or the Self by constant meditation or vichara finaly merges in its source; This result to complete death of the ego, Self-realizatiion and liberation.

      Maharshi says below:
      Since God is verily the Self, love of the Self is love of the God and that is bhakti. Jnana and Bhakti are thus one and the same.

      Really there are only two methods, Self-Enquiry (Vichara) and devotion (Bhakti). One leads to the other.

      A devotee concentrates on God. A seeker, follower of the Jnana-marga seeks the Self. The practice is equally difficult for both.

      Self-enquiry is possible for mature minds, not for immature ones.

      For the immature ones, japa nama, worship of images, pranayama, visualizing a pillar of light and similar yogic and spiritual and religious practices have been prescribed.

      Service, like prayers, japa and even businesss done in God’s name, lead to the highest Goal; Self-realization.

      Complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through Self enquiry or through bhakti-marga.

      ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

      You use only the parts of the advaita teachings that are in accordance with your own understanding. I don’t say that what you say is wrong but that is only your understanding: but your understanding is not the whole thing. Advaita isn’t your own understanding about advaita.
      That means that each one perceives and understands the teachings in his own way.
      But finally The most important thing for everyone is to realize his true nature and dissolve the ego root and branches not to argue anout advaita concepts.
      If your understanding helps you to achive moksha this is just wonderful. I cannot say that doesn’t work because it is your experience and I’m really happy for it.

      We experience the same reality with a unique way. Life is dancing and we are the dancer and the dancing, all we are One.
      Peace supreme reigns always

  10. Dennis – I think the issue is how you define knowledge. I interpret Shankara to mean assimilated knowledge, which I think is a step beyond conceptual knowledge that one is convinced of.

    Hence atma vichara – Ramana’s self-enquiry – is about enquiring for yourself the truth of the ego. Sankara says in Upadesa Sahara:
    5.5: When the ‘this’ (objective) element has once been eliminated from the ego-sense (through metaphysical discrimination) the latter is no longer an object illumined by pure consciousness and no longer exists for its sake. The immediate experience that then ensues is the supreme Self.

    So I think you are mistaken by equating self-enquiry / meditation with action. Self-enquiry is the means to testing and assimilating the knowledge – as also evident from my previous quote from the Sankaracharya of Kanchi.

    Furthermore Sankara, when he talked about action being incompatible with knowledge, he was talking about the renunciation of egoistic action as necessary for liberation. In the US chapter titled ‘Dissolution of Mind’ he writes:
    8.2: Therefore give up actions based on illusion (maya) and attain to permanent cessation from striving for the unreal. For I am ever the supreme Absolute, ever liberated, unborn, one without a second.

    17.23: A man should carry out the best forms of physical and mental asceticism if he wishes to purify his mind, the highest goal. The mind and senses should be kept concentrated and under control. The body should be exposed to the rigours of climate.
    17.24 The highest asceticism is the one-pointed concentration of mind and senses. That is greater than all duties. It is said to be the supreme duty.

    So Sankara is saying, to assimilate this knowledge you need to meditate on it whole-heartedly, in rectitude, without the distraction of actions. And this meditation involves the intense discrimination of non-self from Self. It is more than just conceptual knowledge.

    Ramona’s self-enquiry is just exactly this.

  11. As a counterpoint to the illustrations of ‘ego removal’, which I think is not possible through what anyone has quoted and a misunderstanding of these teachers, I offer what Jesus said:

    ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

    He is declaring that, before we can enter God’s kingdom, we must recognize the utter worthlessness of our own spiritual currency and the inability of our own works to save us. This is also reflected in the poem of Jacopone da Todi which I have posted excerpts from several times.

    All I see here are those who think ‘they’ can do it and quote ways and means that will get them there. But, as of yet, no one has arrived. This is the arrogance of the mind, the seeker, who does not understand that it is their own efforts that keep them in their place repeating words, words, and more words…………..

    • Without the grace of God realization is not possible, but the grace of God comes to those who are heatfully devoted to God and practice with zeal and faith.

      Arrogance it to believe or think someone that is special or a great devotee etc. Not to practice diligantly.

      Finally what you see on ‘others’ it is your own projections and imaginations. Take care of your self and let ‘others’ take care of themselves.

      Om peace

    • Anon,

      You keep making this statement ‘noone has yet arrived’ in various ways. May I ask what you expect to see/hear to know that someone has ‘arrived’? A puff of purple smoke suspended over the house/town/country? Text of messages ringed in gold? What precisely gives you the ability to know this? I am honestly curious. Isn’t the arrogance yours in making this assumption?

      • You, in particular, speak as if you know they way and what is at the end of this way. From my point of view, I see you have memorized and organized your studies well, as others here have. This is not the same thing that real adepts talk about and try to communicate to people who ask them questions. They speak from a different place than you do.

        You write books and consider yourself an authority and expert on Advaita, yet you haven’t been through the personal transformation that genuine adepts have. It’s like going to college to learn about life. You listen to theories and gather data. When you have enough data to sound like you make sense, you teach it to others. This is not real spiritual work. This is being a parrot who has been trained to repeat everything. Everyone is like this including yours truly. How else could I say this? Is this arrogance or just obvious? Is there any doubt when you smell shit on your shoe? Does it make no sense to you anything that I have said?

  12. Nityananda-ji,

    No one is disputing the importance of sAdhana. Both karma yoga and devotional practice may be of value in preparing the mind. Certainly, Shankara has made it clear that only a mind that is purified to some degree is capable of gaining Self-knowledge. He has also made it abundantly clear in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras that neither of these is able to bring about liberation. By all means take your interpretation of what Ramana said over the statments of Shankara but this is at your peril.


    I think your ‘conceptual knowledge’ equates to shravaNa, while your ‘assimilated knowledge’ equates to that same knowledge after all doubts have been removed by manana and maybe subsequent nididhyAsana to ‘fix’ it. But whatever the case, the fact remains that no ‘action’ can result in Self-knowledge for the reasons Shankara has given. And perception, karma, devotional practices etc are all actions.

    • Dear Dennis,
      It seems that for you knowledge means the conceptual knowledge that we take from masters , upanishads etc.

      This knowledge can give an indirect knowledge of the Self primerly, and if one has a prepared and pure enough mind then by contmplation on them awakening can happen.

      But full realization cannot happen without the dissolution of vasanas samskaras, desires amd ego itsel.

      This can happen by vichara or profound meditation and nirvikalpa samadhi and of course is needed the grace of God.

      If you disagree with this ,it is that your ego doesn’t like to die and resists any idea of practice.

      As the anonymous says, you have a lot of conceptual knowledge but spiruality is not a theory although theory up to a point is necessary.. Sankara codemns the scholars of India because thet knew all the sacred texts but they were blind to truth .

      Advaita it is not an Academic study but a matter of actual realization. And this realization to happen all sages suggest practice.

      If one is ripe vichara is enough but if not, have to do also other practices to aquire the fundamental qualifications of dispassion, one-pointness of mind, viveka, sama dama uparati etc.
      Without these qualities all talking about advaita is only an entertaiment. You agree or not this is what the masters say and this is my experience as well.

      I wish you to put it in practice all knowledge that you have aquired all these years and achieve self-realization, of course if it is what you realy want. If not enjoy your journey,
      With love Atman

  13. Atman,

    You are confusing j~nAna with jIvanmukti – but I am not beginning that discussion again here! The ‘conceptual knowledge’ that you say you get from scriptures is called shabda pramANa and is the ONLY source of the knowledge that Atman = brahman, according to the teaching of advaita.

    The idea that meditation and devotional practices bring about liberation, and that knowledge alone does not, is the belief of vishiShTAdvaita, not advaita!

    I think we have exhausted this topic now. Thanks very much for this article, which has stimulated so much interesting (and hopefully useful!) discussion.

    Best wishes,

Comments are closed.