In Search of Brahman, Part 5

sat-chit-Ananda is often used to describe that which ‘lies beyond’ description, Brahman.

sat is being, chit is consciousness, Ananda is bliss.

Is love there too? Kindness, empathy, compassion? Does enlightenment awaken these qualities?

14 thoughts on “In Search of Brahman, Part 5

  1. Hi Rick

    Enlightenment can be defined as ‘identity with all’ (and dis-identification with the individual body-mind). So kindness, empathy, compassion are naturally there – because there is nothing separate. And if you think about it, the sadhana of karma yoga, desireless action, means action without consideration of the fruits for oneself; your actions are not for yourself . . .

    Bhagavad Gita:
    6.31: That yogi, who being established in unity, adore Me as existing in all things, he exists in me – in whatever condition he may be.
    6.32: O Arjuna, that yogi is considered the best who judges what is happiness and sorrow in all beings by the same standard as he would apply to himself.
    and
    12.13: He who is not hateful towards any creature, who is friendly and compassionate, who has no idea of ‘mine’ and the of egoism, who is the same under sorrow and happiness, who is forgiving.

    Nisargadatta captured it when he said:
    “Love says ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says ‘I am nothing’. Between the two my life flows”

    • Venkat, hi. 🙂

      Great quote from Nisargadatta. It reminds me of something Swami Sarvapriyananda said in one of his talks, that seeing yourself as nothing and as everything are two sides of the same coin.

      > Enlightenment can be defined as ‘identity with all’ (and dis-identification with the individual body-mind). So kindness, empathy, compassion are naturally there – because there is nothing separate.

      If I am all, and all is one, for *whom* (or what) would I feel kindness, empathy, compassion?

  2. The dignity and worth of the human being is the consequence of the fact that he or she embodies the infinite. The Advaitin loves the world because it is not different from his or her Self. In Self-realization, the individual identity is completely transcended and the identity of all with the Self is realized. Thus in loving or realizing one’s Self one transcends the limitations of the individual self and loves all, as all is one with the Self.

    As Venkat points out, the ideal as given in the Bhagavad Gita is clearly one of love and compassion arising from the identity of oneself with others. The vision of the Self in all beings is articulated in the Upanishads as well, although the practical implications of this understanding for our social life are not explored. When Shankara comments on such passages he tends to emphasize freedom from hate and not harming others rather than compassion and the active alleviation of suffering. What’s implied by the truth of self-knowledge is interpreted passively. But seeing the suffering of others as one’s own, affirming truths about the non-duality of the Self and discerning one’s self in all doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless this insight causes us to act to alleviate that suffering.

    • > The dignity and worth of the human being is the consequence of the fact that he or she embodies the infinite.

      “It is not for the sake of itself, my beloved, that anything whatever is esteemed, but for the sake of the Self.” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

      > The Advaitin loves the world because it is not different from his or her Self.

      If love is inherent in realizing Brahman, why is the descriptor sat-chit-Ananda instead of something like sat-chit-prema-Ananda? Or is love/prema implied by Ananda?

      > But seeing the suffering of others as one’s own, affirming truths about the non-duality of the Self and discerning one’s self in all doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless this insight causes us to act to alleviate that suffering.

      Is that the traditional Advaita teaching?

  3. Hi Rick Riekert,

    Great comment.

    “discerning one’s self in all doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless this insight causes us to act to alleviate that suffering”

    I have thought about this a lot, and would have passionately agreed with you in the past.

    I have however come to the conclusion that human beings have built a civilisation that is too large and hierarchical, such that corruption, exploitation and suffering are part of the operating software. We have been taught from childhood to have ambition, to strive, to compete, to scramble up the hierarchy as far as we can go. And the inevitable by-product of such a system is suffering.

    There are remote hunter-gather tribes that have collaboration, peace, friendship as their operating software; that perhaps is our paradise lost. From the moment humanity discovered agricultural farming, we were doomed; for we now had the means to drive a self-reinforcing loop of scale and hierarchy: and hence elites and serfs. We don’t have the wisdom or ability to turn back the clock on scale and hierarchy – especially as it will require those at the top to give up power and wealth. Environmental degradation and climate change are perhaps Iswara’s long overdue solution.

    So whilst Sankara conceded that some Jnanis may be like a Janaka, who worked for the benefit of the world, he thought that such cases would be rare. In general he thought Jnanis would be sannyasins, giving up all personally-motivated action, and living on what comes by chance. In other words, s/he would have the same regard for her / his body as for any other. As such, s/he is true to the insight of nonduality – and causes the least possible harm, by no longer participating in a corrupt human society.

    To quote Nisargadatta again:

    “Nothing profits the world as much as the abandoning of profits. A man who’s no longer thinking in terms of winning and losing is truly a non-violent man, for he is beyond all conflict”

    and

    “The Guru is basically without desire. He sees what happens, but feels no urge to interfere. He makes no choices, takes no decisions. As pure witness, he watches what is going on and remains unaffected. Nothing in particular affects him, or, what comes to the same, the entire universe affects him in equal measure”

    So all we ajnanis can do is focus on self-realisation, finding the answer to the question ‘who am I?’; without being distracted by those who prattle on about continuing in the world as before, but now as a jnani. Their jnana does not “amount to a hill of beans”. The test for a jnani is simple and self-administered; from V S Iyer:

    “Do not treat other people as mere ideas but your own self as real. If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they. Hence you must feel for them all just what you feel for yourself.”

  4. Hi Rick,

    You say, “sat-chit-Ananda is often used to describe that which ‘lies beyond’ description, Brahman.”

    As a follower of Advaita, I am sure you agree that the words sat, cit and Ananda are not descriptors like an adjective, but the very intrinsic nature (swarUpa lakShaNa) of what is being pointed to by the word ‘brahman.’ Though you may be knowing, I wanted to make it explicit.

    Next you ask: “Is love there too? Kindness, empathy, compassion?”

    In Non-dual understanding, the word “love” is not a relational term – like in “A loves B.” It attains a new meaning.
    Just as Ananda stands for “lack of desire,” love then stands for “lack of separation.” Absence of a distance. It is utter seamless Oneness. It’s AB – no two. It’s Identity, Oneness.

    Can you similarly redefine the other words you speak about — kindness, empathy, compassion?
    These words, are more a descriptors of a “relation between two entities.” But if ‘two’ were to be present with the third relational term cropping up linking those two, would you call it Non-duality?

    Your final Question: ” Does enlightenment awaken these qualities?”

    “Enlightenment” to my understanding is just that Ultimately unsublatable “What-ever-It-Is” that is the residuum after negating and dropping which is not Self. It is not a doing. It does not wake up anything, IMHO.

    • Ramesam, hi. 🙂

      Too bad Advaita doesn’t have the equivalent of the Buddhist terms right and wrong conventional truth. If it did, love in right vyavahAra (vyavahAra informed by an understanding that I am atman-brahman) would be seamless oneness, and love in wrong vyavahAra (informed by avidyA) would be attachment, desire, possessiveness.

      > “Enlightenment” … is not a doing. It does not wake up anything, IMHO.

      Yes, really good point, thanks for reminding me of this. But though enlightenment might not ‘wake up anything’ as in cause-effect, certain attributes of the jvanmukta (who is, after all, still human) are likely to blossom after enlightenment: love, kindness, peacefulness. Do you agree?

  5. Dear Rick,

    Thanks for the response.

    You say, “Too bad Advaita doesn’t have the equivalent of the Buddhist terms right and wrong conventional truth. If it did, love in right vyavahAra (vyavahAra informed by an understanding that I am atman-brahman) would be seamless oneness, …”

    I admit I am not an authority on Advaita.
    Maybe Dennis will be able to say more authentically.
    But to the little extent of my understanding, your statement above betrays certain misconception about Advaita.

    Unlike the religious systems whose concern is mainly about the regulation of social relationships and mutual interactions amongst the members of a group of people for the highest good of all, Advaita aims at the discovery of really real “Reality” in the midst of ever changing time-space causational world that we live in and who or what “I” truly am at an individual’s level. Consequently, its teaching is something that transcends and goes beyond a society’s arbitrary and artificial standards of good-bad, acceptable-rejectable etc. pairs of polar opposites.

    The externally dictated or imposed and policed ‘code of conduct’ in a society has only a transient validity and does not possess any intrinsic verity. The so-called vyAvahArika world can at best serve as a springboard for a student of Advaita to cross into the pAramArthika understanding of “I am brahman.” But such a realizational understanding does not mean that it is a theory and one draws some killer Apps for an accepted way of life in vyavahArika. The realization of “I am brahman” is to be liberated from a life in vyavahArika.

    Perhaps, a paradigm shift is needed in one’s approach in taking up a study of Advaita. It is not for the upliftment of an individual’s self that Advaita is studied. It is to know the Truth and be that Truth.

    • > Advaita aims at the discovery of really real “Reality” in the midst of ever changing time-space causational world that we live in and who or what “I” truly am at an individual’s level. …/… The so-called vyAvahArika world can at best serve as a springboard for a student of Advaita to cross into the pAramArthika understanding of “I am brahman.”

      My understanding, and please to correct it if it’s wrong, is that even jivanmuktas live in the vyavahara world, the world of conventional empirical reality, until they die. What distinguishes them from unenlightened jivas is that they *know* they are living in vyavahara.

  6. Hi Ramesam

    I don’t disagree with what you have written, but “it does not wake up anything” can be misunderstood. Sankara, in BSB2.3.48:
    “And it cannot be said that if the man of enlightenment is beyond all obligation [ie societal right and wrong], he may as well behave capriciously; for it is self-identity that is seen to promote action everywhere, but in the case of the enlightened one there is no such self-identity”

    If there is no self-identity, and rather identification with all that is, then logically, there can be no selfish desires to motivate action. In the absence of such selfish action, the enlightened one no longer can contribute to suffering of ‘others’. Nisargadatta summed it up:
    “The sage will live as he pleases, above codes. But this does not mean he will do wrong, harm others or cause suffering. For his self-identification with them will prevent this”

    Krishnaswamy Iyer, in “Vedanta the science of reality” also addresses this point of ethics:
    “People that have bestowed no deep thought upon the subject have often raised their voice against Vedanta, alleging that it relaxes our notions of right and wrong, since when one feels one’s identity with God one may imagine oneself free from all moral and social restraint. This is a grievous error. The sense of divine identity must necessarily mean the breaking to pieces of the outer shell of individuality, the annihilation of all attachment and the extinction of selfish appetites or desires. How then can a man be guilty of sinful or vicious acts who can have no selfish motive, who has no joys or pains of his own apart from those of society? The true Vedantin would feel ashamed even at the recollection of his acts of self-gratification. For in him all evil tendencies are now completely crushed. Besides, the objection is raised by those who treat the identity as one of mathematical quantities as expressed in the equation X=Y, without heeding the moral and spiritual implications of transcendental monism. Knowledge of Truth imposes moral and spiritual obligations, as a matter of inevitable necessity from which there can be no escape, or desire to escape.”

  7. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for your intervention clarifying on the point of “injunctions and prohibitions” with respect to an enlightened individual.

    Shankara is very categorical in his comment under 2.3.48 that the “injunctions and prohibitions” as stipulated by shAstra-s are for one who “has still a notion that one is an aggregate of body etc.” He also adds that “nobody who understands the Self to be disassociated from the body etc. is ever seen to come in the range of direction, what to speak of one who realizes the unity of Self?”

    As you say, a jIvanmukta who is still burdened with a body to take care of, will lose all “motivation” to do anything (other than routine minimal maintenance of the body – 3.8, BG). I am not able to immediately recall the actual citation, but the scripture also says that whatever action such a Self-realized individual does that itself will be the moral code to be followed by all. Hence, the actions of the realized one get established as the morality for the sciety.

    And we have also to remember that the body which still acts as the host for the Self-realized had already acquired the sAdhana catuShTaya sampatti, and therefore, it gets habituated to act, as though on autopilot, in conformity with the realization of Unity with the Self.

    regards,

  8. Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your poser.

    I am not sure but I am veering now a days to the idea that the concept of jIvanmukti itself has gone through a historical shift from the times of the Upanishads to Shankara to Vidyaranya to modern day.

    Perhaps from being a mere transitional “state” of a short duration before one attains videhamukti (liberation without the body), jIvanmukti seems to have become a prestigious “Status,” a position or almost an “ideal” to be achieved by a seeker.

    As chAndogya says at 6.14.2, jIvanmukti is only for a short time till the body drops when the seeker becomes a videhamukta.

    Of course, there are altogether another variety of jIvanmukta-s who live for the accomplishment of specific missions during a given phase of creation as sUtra bhAShya at 3.3.23 tells us. I am not referring to them. As seekers looking for liberation, we are not going to be that kind of jIvanmukta-s

    I have been waiting to know from Dennis what his own views are, as he said he would be posting a blog on the topic of how the idea of jIvanmukti changed over time.

    Therefore, for seekers like most of us who are not ApAntaratamas, how a jIvanmukta lives and interacts with the vyAvahArika is not a point of concern. When Ramana was asked such a question, he used to chastise people not to worry about how a jIvanmukta’s lives but achieve jIvanmukti.

    But as I said, I am still researching on this topic.

  9. > When Ramana was asked such a question, he used to chastise people not to worry about how a jIvanmukta’s lives but achieve jIvanmukti.

    Makes sense, thanks. 🙂

    I enjoy exploring different spiritual views without committing 100% to any one view. I guess you could say the only view I’m really committed to is my view of views … and, obviously, deep commitment is required to achieve jivanmukti. The upside to this kind of eclectic seeking is endless fascination and inspiration; each tradition has great beauty and wisdom. The downside is that I risk forever remaining a tourist to all these traditions and failing to find/realize the greatest treasures they have to offer.

    In Advaitin terms, one might say my mumukshutva is not so strong. I’m more interested in the journey than the goal … or: The journey *is* the goal.

    Sorry for the rant … my mumukshutva might be on the weak side, but my ahamkara seems to be thriving. 😉

  10. Hi Rick,

    “I enjoy exploring different spiritual views without committing 100% to any one view. I guess you could say the only view I’m really committed to is my view of views …”

    That is an approach that guarantees 200 % success “to fail” in grokking what Advaita tries to teach us.

    Advaita, a priori, requires unwavering commitment to know the really real Reality. Secondly, what is known through our senses + mind constitutes “our view”; Advaita is all about pointing out the inadequacy of that mind + senses view and taking one to a view beyond that worldview.

    About Jivanmukti:

    You can find a very good and pretty exhaustive write up by Swami Krishnananda Here: https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/disc/disc_41.html

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