NDM: What is the difference with simply being enlightenment in the advaitin sense, knowing one is Brahman, infinite, eternal non-dual awareness and so on and being a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: The first and foremost thing is the knowing of information “I am brahman.” This has to be understood by the mind intellectually. It is the shravaNa (Listening) phase. Next is to assimilate it and internalize it to the extent that no doubt remains in one’s mind about the Truth of that statement. This is the manana (Reflection) phase. After being firmly convinced and free of doubts, one needs to continuously stay with it as brahman (not become brahman but be brahman). This is the nididhyAsana (Contemplation and Meditation) phase. Jivanmukta is one who unwaveringly and unbrokenly abides as brahman.
NDM: Why would one person become enlightened and get the added benefits of bliss, no aversions, fears, desires and being a Jivanmukta, while another may not? Is this grace, karma, or because of one’s practice or some other factors involved?
Ramesam Vemuri: If one continues to mistake the rope as snake or the understanding is only superficial, his understanding is obviously incomplete.
Perfect understanding is not a ‘phala’ (fruit or result of an action). So looking for reasons of one obtaining it and another failing to do so is of no help. We may supply some theories and lame explanations using the words karma, lack of grace etc. but they are all just that – unfalsifiable fiction. So what has one to do? Scriptures advise to go back, start with shravaNa, manana and continue with nididhyAsana.
NDM: Do all Jivanmuktas exist in a fourth state of turiya or the fifth state, turIyAtIta?
Ramesam Vemuri: If I may point out, I am sure you are already aware, turIya is not a state. It does not come and go as the word ‘state’ would imply. The other three – awake, dream and deep sleep states – may come and go. turIya is ever there. The other three states exist in turIya. turIya is brahman.
If turIya is brahman, what can be there as the fifth state or turIyAtIta? Strictly Vedanta does not admit the word turIyAtIta. turIyAtIta acquired common parlance even in some important ancient texts for the purpose of emphasis only to prime the seeker to look beyond the three states and be ever established in turIya.
Some people equate turIya to brahman and turIyAtIta to parabrahman (Supreme brahman). But brahman is parabrahman. It is just a poetic expression.
turIya is Jivanmukti.
NDM: Can you please take a look at the first 3 minutes of this video on Wayne Liquorman talking about the difference between a sage and a saint?
What do you see is the difference with a sage and a saint?
Ramesam Vemuri: Wayne defines a Saint as the embodied person of a set of high values believed in by a group. The Saint becomes the role model for virtuous behavior for that group and may not gel with another group. A Sage is defined by him as one in whom the individuating “I” has collapsed.
Maybe my knowledge is limited. I am familiar that the Sanskrit word samnyAsi (an absolute renunciate who renounced even thoughts and counter thoughts) is usually translated as Saint. The word Rishi (a realized man/Seer) is translated as Sage. Maharishi is now accepted into English (Oxford Dictionary). Sanskrit scriptures use Rsihi, Maharishi, Jnani, Jivanmukta, Sthitaprajna, Drik, Muni etc., a whole variety of such names interchangeably.
But one thing is clear. When one is a Jivanmukta, he is already a complete renunciate – has no desires, preferences, likes and dislikes, wants and fears. There is a natural nobility and a spontaneous morality in a Jivanmukta – not any showy or artificial morality sanctioned by an authority. Acquiring many embellishing qualities but retaining a Himalayan ego can hardly make a person a Jivanmukta.
NDM: So what exactly happens in the NididhyAsana (Contemplation and Meditation) phase? Does some kind of shift take place? Is this like an intuitive understanding or gnosis of some kind?
Ramesam Vemuri: nididhyAsana is an umbrella term. It subsumes under it whatever it takes on the part of the seeker to achieve permanent abidance as brahman.
The twin acts of Listening and Reflection bring about clarity in thinking and consequently result in a better appreciation of the meaning of the Upanishadic statement tat tvam asi. That in turn helps in comprehending unambiguously the essence of brahman. However, one’s intellect does not get unwaveringly established in Truth by this process. Negative thoughts keep emerging and become impediments for enduring abidance as brahman.
The foremost thing for the seeker is to appreciate that Consciousness which enables “me” to be conscious of objects is not an entity confined somewhere within my body-mind and also that It is not something I own. The next thing is to understand that the various objects I perceive are not disparate elements distributed in space but it is my thought that assigns a name and a form by abstracting part by part of what otherwise is one whole undivided space. If I see an object and recognize it, two things have happened. First is being aware of something and then adding a name (ID-tag) to it. The quality of being aware, the sensitivity, is by virtue of Consciousness. Adding a name, a form and recognizing it as a specific object is the job done by the mind.
But how do I know that I am ‘conscious’ of a thing? When do I know I am conscious at all? I know I am conscious only when I observe (using any of the five senses) a thing (even a thought observed is a ‘thing’ for this analysis). So it is only that thing that is telling me I am conscious. Or in other words, the thing is no ‘thing’ but my Consciousness appearing in the form of the thing. Therefore, the so called object is no different from (my) Consciousness.
Closer and careful investigation will show that for me to be conscious of a thing, I have to first exist or more generally the quality to “be” (not as an adjective but as a noun, i.e. “beingness”) has to be present prior to being conscious.
Eventually it will be seen that “me being conscious” and “consciousness of my being” are not two distinct things but one and the same. That means that I understand that my Beingness, my Consciousness and the objective world around are all just One indivisible whole.
After the first glimpse of this realization, non-attachment to the objects of the world has to intensify. With decreasing attraction to the objects (of all the five senses), the mind develops a tendency to be a non-cognizer. It settles into an intensive meditative state described as ‘non-conceptualization of objects.’ As a matter of fact all the above processes keep running parallel, not strictly one after other. ‘Non-conceptualization of objects’ is the sixth stage in the Sevenfold Knowledge Path to Self-realization. The seeker has hardly to do anything from this stage as this stage, by itself, will lead him to the final turIya.
The above is a very quick run of the things. Graphic descriptions of individual experiences/struggles in nididhyAsana phase are available in literature. They vary considerably and we need not be concerned with the details.
(To Continue … Part: 6/12)