My Tuppence Worth

tuppenceIt was over two scores and a half years ago. I remember an experience when I was living in that part of India venerated by the name AryAvarta, the holy land. The cows and other cattle had a right of way even on the so-called main roads, affectionately christened ‘M.K. Gandhi Marg’ ‘P.C. Chatterji Panth’ or some such tongue twisters by the locals. The citizens or rather the bodies of the inhabitants have a natural agility and ability to automatically adopt all the tricks of an expert contortionist in walking on the road avoiding the animals or their heaps and spurts of fragrant fresh just-in-time  deliveries – made, as though, just for you.  When you are all focused on keeping your balance as you never know where your next step may have to land, a hearty greeting jolts your auditory senses. You take time to locate the source of that sound, because there is obviously no face visible nearby. You see at a distance a half raised single hand, as a mark of showing respect for you. Adept practitioners of Zen may not know the clap of a single hand, but every one over there knows a salutation by one hand. Their shout says ‘su prabhAtaM,’ a literal translation for “Good Morning.”

I have been always intrigued by such expressions used by the religious and Sanskrit zealots and self-conceited patriotic folk. If you are so concerned to value and respect your tradition, why not use both hands that God or whoever has given you, join them in symbolical gesture of Oneness of all and say ‘namaskAr?’ Good Morning is an adaptation from an alien culture and it has its own significance. If you think that ‘Good Morning’ sounds progressive and modern, then why not just say “Good Morning?” If you clothe the word in an Indian garb, does it make you more patriotic? I never get an answer.

Another such an expression is twopaisa. It’s a poor imitation for ‘my tuppence worth.’ It is an idiom in the English language and has a history, perhaps sourced to the Bible.  If you convert the pennies into paisa, two pennies will be today almost one hundred times more in value – that can fetch a cup of tea in a way side stall in India! They are not equivalent to  saying two pence.

The Wikipedia says that the expression ‘my two pennies worth’ or ‘my tuppence worth’ is used “to preface the tentative stating of one’s  opinion. By deprecating  the opinion to follow – suggesting its value is only two cents,  a very small amount  –  the user  of  the phrase  hopes to lessen  the impact  of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility. However, it is also sometimes used with irony when expressing a strongly felt opinion. The phrase is also used  out of habit to  preface  uncontentious opinions.”

If I remove the two words ‘my worth’ from the idiom, and use it as a pronoun in the nominative case singular number, what meaning can one give to it? I don’t know.

Then there was another experience, told by a friend.  They had to interview a candidate for a job. The Chairman of the board opened the salvo of questions asking the candidate in the usual style of a boss of the show, “What is your name?” The candidate replied non-chalantly, “I have no name.” It is evident that he wanted to impress the board how much he took to his heart the ancient Indian teaching that the Supreme Reality has no name and that’s what he was, in truth, none other than the nameless Supreme Self. But then why would the Supreme Reality come for an Interview seeking a job? There are a number of Swamis also. They think that they have given up everything by dropping their name. By mere christening oneself if he/she were to become the most virtuous, the most tranquil and the happiest of beings on the earth, perhaps taking sanyAs is the easiest way to liberation. But that’s not the way Shankara instituted the dasanAmi system.

And moreover, what our greatest philosophy, Advaita, says is very different. In fact, Krishna, the personification of Supreme Consciousness, advises his most dear pupil that action and doership and implicitly therefore, a sense of an identity are required for sharIra yAtra (the journey from birth to death to sustain and support the body — BG, III-8). Such an action is inevitable for life processes.

What the Upanishads teach is not annihilation of your name and form. Being a suicide bomber is not, surely, the way for liberation. The world is ‘as IS’ brahman. Nothing needs to be changed or gets changed. Instead of operating on behalf of and for the happiness of a separate imaginary person, you allow your body-mind to work on behalf of the  Unknowable Supreme Self and let all things happen as they will any way, with you or without you. ‘You can but be an instrument’ (nimitta mAtrAn bhava- BG XI-33) tells Krishna.

When an action happens, an effect is inevitable. That’s the niyati (the Law of Nature) set by the very first thought when you yourself as Hiranyagarbha embarked on the creation phase, whether Newton formulated it or not. The effect can be pleasant or unpleasant to the doer. Liberation is not playing a truant. it is not shirking work or going incognito. Nor moksha is something  hidden in some inaccessible holy and hallowed precincts far remote from the world, which is all this is. ‘moksha‘ does not end suffering. It is about ending the sufferer. We have from bihadAraNyaka Upanishad:

आत्मानं चेद्विजानीयादयमस्मीति पूरुषः किमिच्छन्कस्य कामाय शरीरमनुसञ्ज्वरेत् ॥ — IV-iv-12

(Meaning: If a man knows that I am the Self, then desiring what and for whose sake will he suffer in the wake of the body?).

To give up a name, or expecting some Utopian angelic ethereal world to suddenly open up with a bang away from what IS, is a misunderstanding – as much as the mis-identification of one’s  Self to be a separate person.

68 thoughts on “My Tuppence Worth

  1. Ramesam, you may find the following of interest – from Meister Eckhart:

    “He is a poor man who knows nothing. We have said on occasion that a man should live in such a way that he would not live for himself , the truth, or God. Now, however, we say it differently and we say further that a man who is to have this poverty must live so that he does not know that he does not live for himself, the truth, or God. Rather, he must be so free from all that he has learned that he would not know or recognize or feel that God lives in him; even more, he should be empty of all knowing. For, when that man stood in God’s eternal essence, nothing else lived in him; what lived there was he himself. For that reason, we say that a man must be as empty of all knowing as he was before he was created and he must let God accomplish His work in him as He wills, and himself stand empty.”

  2. Ramesam

    May I clarify your interpretation of BG 3.8, as I think it is intended for an Arjuna who still is not ready for the ultimate truth.

    In the latter verses of BG chapter 2, Krishna extols the man of wisdom, how he walks, talks, behaves.

    For instance, verse 71:
    The man who, giving up all objects of desires, moves about seeking nothing, and rid of all sense of ‘mine’ and ‘I’, wins peace.

    From Sankara’s commentary:
    His efforts have been reduced to securing just what sustains life – this is the sense. ‘Seeking nothing’ – he does not desire even to keep the body alive. So he is free from all sense of mine – he has no sense of possessions even in regard to those few things needed to maintain his body alive.

    There seems to be a line of thought that one can gain jnana, and yet continue to function in the world as before. It seems however that all the masters suggest such a radical deconstruction of the sense of ‘I’, that a jnani no longer functions in the same way. Vide Ramana Maharishi, and the lives of some of his disciples like Murugunar.

    Would you agree?

    • Venkat said: “There seems to be a line of thought that one can gain jnana, and yet continue to function in the world as before.”

      This is the key point that few want to consider. They want to keep analyzing and collecting bits of information, putting together a picture of a liberated man/woman. A terrible waste of time.

      • Dear Anon,

        Venkat is, no doubt, our “conscience keeper.”

        But, perhaps, “the key point to consider,” in the present context at any rate, is : Nothing needs to be changed or gets changed. Instead of operating on behalf of and for the happiness of a separate imaginary person, you allow your body-mind to work on behalf of the Unknowable Supreme Self and let all things happen as they will any way, with you or without you.

        The over-emphasis on a stance like ‘there-is-nothing- you-have-to-say-or-know, any-expression-is-a-thought-structure’ could be the usp of another teacher; but hardly communicates anything.

        UG too used to keep on referring to the wasteful thought structures (he has even a book titled “Thought is the Enemy”). Once I asked UG, through Prof. Narayana Moorty whom you may know, where exactly is the “thought sphere” located, for he was always talking about it. I wanted to understand what platform the thoughts were resident on. I could not get any clear response. That was in the late 90s. Maybe I was not that mature enough to grasp UG’s message. Still one can say such teaching is hardly intelligible. Hence, IMHO, we need not deprecate totally all formulations in communicating what needs to be communicated.


        • I give you a few stanzas from Jacopone da Todi, an Italian monk/poet in the Franciscan order, 13/14th c.:

          The light of the intellect,
          Which had seemed dazzling,
          Now seems dark and feeble;
          What it thought was strength
          It now recognizes as weakness.
          No longer can the intellect describe divinity
          As it once did when it could speak;
          For perfect Good no metaphor is adequate.

          Once united with God it knows
          That what you think is day is night,
          What you think is light is darkness.
          Until you reach this point, and the self is annihilated,
          Everything you think is true is really false.
          You do not yet have in you pure charity
          While you can think of yourself
          And the victory you are striving for.

          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.

          • Excellent, Anon.

            But, da Todi’s just another formulation of what is “inexpressible.”

            Everyone’s effort is to make effable what is ineffable, Upanishads / Gaudapada / da Todi / UG / JK (though deprecated by UG!!!) / —–

            So, “we need not deprecate totally all formulations”


            • It’s not a matter of deprecation. It is a matter of turning away from this pursuit of seeking because it can never give you what you want. I think the poem expresses it quite well.

              • The da Todi poem is very good, but by no means original. It very much reminded me of verse 2.69 of the Bhagavad Gita (written much earlier): “What is night to all beings, therein the self-
                controlled one is awake. Where all beings are awake, that is the night of the Sage who sees.”

                This is what I said about it in ‘Book of One’: “Here, what is being said is that ordinary people live amongst the illusory world of the senses, believing it all to be real – that is
                their ‘day’. To them, reality is ‘night’ and their vision is totally useless here. One who has turned away from the senses and ‘shaken off the sleep
                of avidyA’, as Shankara puts it, is completely awake and the night time of reality is like day to him. Conversely, the world of transience and mere
                appearance is now like night time to him since it is a state of ignorance.”

                The point is that one has to dispel the darkness of ignorance, using the light of Self-knowledge, before one wakes up.

                • To drive the point home further, here is some more Jacopone:

                  “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.

                  Hence, if you have found Him know in truth
                  That it was through no power of yours.
                  The good that is given you
                  Comes out of charity; it is a gift,
                  Not the fruit of your own efforts.
                  Let all your desire, then,
                  Be directed toward Him,
                  The Infinite One, Giver of all good.”

  3. Thank you Venkat for the Comments that are very germane to the topic.

    The quote from Meister Eckhart gives the same message – only thing is there is a lot of baggage added to the word God in all the 700-800 years since his times and it should be understood not in terms of some personified entity but as the inexpressible and ineffable sentience.

    You have also been kind to clarify about a jnAni’s way of life and what you said is very true. The BG verse III-8 has to be understood with reference to the body-mind that lives its life free from the ownership claims of the imagined separate person. Truly speaking, the jnAni is the entire world and not confined to a specific body-mind. He/she is brahman.

    Another important point often seems to be missed is that there cannot be many liberated individuals. There can be only one liberated entity. It is rather a deep statement but perhaps obvious. When the liberated man is brahman ( ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति (brhmaveda brahmaiva bhavati) – III-ii-1, muNDaka), you cannot have many brahmans.


  4. Excellent post, Ramesam!

    I would, however, just like to comment upon your last point in your response to Ven.

    There cannot be ‘many’ individuals period, whether liberated or not, from an absolute perspective. The ‘non-liberated’ man is also brahman. One always has to keep in mind the vyAvahArika-pAramArthika distinction. Contrariwise, from the empirical perspective, there remain many individuals, whether liberated or not. Ramana and Murugunar (to use Ven’s example) were not the same person.

  5. Thank you Dennis for the kind words.


    P.S.: Invoking the Advaita Police, 🙂
    I suggest, just for the fun of it, one may not even say:
    “There cannot be ‘many’ individuals period, whether liberated or not, from an absolute perspective.”

    Would the following formulation be more proximal to truth?
    There are not ‘many’ individuals period.

    shruti says, ‘There is no plurality here’ (neha nanasti kincana; Br. IV-iv-19 and Katha II-i-11).

    [Liberation or otherwise; the empirical vs. absolute perspectives etc. etc. are “conceptions.” Therefore unnecessary appendages.]

  6. Dear Anon,

    In your latest response to Dennis, you seem to emphasize the strongly theistic flavor by saying, perhaps inadvertently, while quoting da Todi:

    “To drive the point home further, here is some more Jacopone:”

    Don’t you see there is a highly dualistic attitude in that expression which “seems” to appeal to a Lord, a Him, placed somewhere remote from the “I”?


  7. Don’t you see that there are many ways to express the experiences of body/mind? None which are better than the others. All of them fall short as the poems point out.

    The first thing I asked U.G. when I met him 45 years ago was whether he was in the non-dual state. He told me, ‘there is no such thing as the non-dual state’.

    All these imaginings, Ramesam, underscore the mind trying to grasp at what is. It just can’t do it. This is the hardest thing in the world to accept. We fight with everything we have to continue the illusion. Each of us must face it. We understand nothing.

  8. “We understand nothing.”

    Words of desperation?

    Words of condescending wisdom bestowed on plebs lost in mind games?

    Words of condemnation rubbishing well-wishing ‘pointers’ handed down reverentially for millennia of years?


    Instead of getting into any hair-splitting argumentation, I quote a short excerpt from an Article written by me almost a year ago – published at Advaita Academy Web site:


    The Supreme Self can neither be seen nor experienced. It is only known.

    muNDaka upanishad tells us:
    स यो ह वै तत्परमं ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति — III-ii-9, muNDaka upanishad
    sa yo ha vai tatparamaM brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati

    Meaning: Anyone who knows the Supreme brahman is brahman indeed.

    If one feels or says, “I have understood” or “I have experienced brahman,” it is safe to conclude that he or she missed the Advaita teaching totally! Because such a statement implies an obvious duality — not a-dvaita — that there is a separate “me” lurking somewhere having the experience of a state different from oneself.

    The Advaitic understanding does not happen either through the senses or through a thought. Anything perceived or experienced is an object andbrahman is ever the subject. It cannot be objectified. Speaking about liberation thus may sound that ‘realization’ is a horribly difficult and remote thing. But in truth it is pretty simple and straight forward. One knows one’s own realization without any external aid or validation just as one knows that he/she woke up from his/her sleep.

    kena upanishad expresses the conundrum very well.
    नाहं मन्ये सुवेदेति नोन वेदेति वेद च |
    यो नस्तद्वेद नो न वेदेति वेद च ॥ — kena upa. II – 2
    nAhaM manye suvedeti nona vedeti veda ca
    yo nastadveda no na veda ca ||

    Meaning: I think not I know brahman rightly, nor do I think It is unknown. I know (and do not know also). He among us who knows that knows It. Not that It is not known, nor that It is known.

    यस्यामतं तस्य मतं मतं यस्य न वेद सः |
    अविज्ञातं विजानतां विज्ञातमविजानताम् ॥ — kena upa. II – 3
    yasyAmataM tasya mataM mataM yasya na veda saH
    avijnAtaM vijAnatAM vijnAtamavijAnatAM ||

    Meaning: It is known to him to whom It is unknown. He to whom It is known does not know It.

    It is unknown to those who know, and known to those who know not.

    The body-mind of the realized seeker gets so fine-tuned that whatever sounds emanate from its mouth or whatever actions are done by it, it is brahman Itself talking or doing.



  9. Are you trying to convince me of something? We are like a tape recording, put on repeat. This is all that is taking place and it is taking place wherever consciousness is. We develop philosophies to make us feel better. We denigrate others who feel differently. If the denigration gets too intense, we try to destroy it. We build friendships around our agreements, walls of righteousness. We are liars, cheats, and want to survive at any cost. We understand nothing……….

    Jacopone writes:


    When the mind’s very being is gone,
    Sunk in a conscious sleep,
    In a rapture divine and deep,
    Itself in the Godhead lost:
    It is conquered, ravished, and won!
    Set in Eternity’s sweep,
    Gazing back on the steep,
    Knowing not how it was crossed –
    To a new world now it is tossed,
    Drawn from its former state,
    To another, measureless, great,
    Where Love is drowned in the Sea.

    • “Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you
      reckon’d the earth much?
      Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
      Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

      Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
      origin of all poems,
      You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
      millions of suns left,)
      You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
      look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
      spectres in books,
      You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
      from me,
      You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

      Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

      • In the spirit of the quotes flying around, here’s one from a French Painter, one of the greatest among the post-impressionists:

        The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.

        — Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

  10. “I only know that I don’t know”.

    I wonder if you are both saying the same thing – one constructively and one destructively – and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense.

    The mind can take you to a point, but then it needs to see it too is part of the projection, and fall silent in being. This, I think we agree, is a matter of grace. But Vedanta, Ch’an, Ramana, et al, in their pointers to the ineffable, may lead the mind (as in the Ox-herding metaphor of Ch’an) to a point at which the accident of grace is more likely – than it would be in pursuing the normal “unexamined life” that most of us lead.

    From JK:

    “Humility implies total destruction – not of outward, social things, but complete destruction of the centre, of oneself, of one’s own ideas, experiences, knowledge, traditions – completely emptying the mind of everything that it has known. Therefore, such a mind is no longer thinking in terms of change. A mind that is no longer concerned with change has no fear and is therefore free. Then it is no longer trying to change itself into another pattern, no longer exposing itself to further experiences, no longer asking and demanding, because such a mind is free; therefore, it can be quiet, still. And then, perhaps, that which is nameless can come into being. So, humility is essential, but not of the artificial, cultivated kind. You see, one must be without capacity, without gift; one must be as nothing, inwardly. And, I think that if one sees this without trying to learn how to be as nothing, then the seeing is the experiencing of it and then, perchance, the other thing can come into being.”

    Best wishes,

  11. Venkat,

    Do any of us really see what you said about the mind being part of the projection and falls silent in being? If it is a matter of grace, all images and concepts as well as any effort to achieve this, will have no effect on the outcome. Have any of us experienced a complete emptying out of the mind? Are these not fair questions to ask?

    I am not implying that effort should not be made in this area. By our very nature, we will make an effort. But, at some point, the effort becomes an obstruction. Advaita is one kind of effort, Ch’an another. Not because what they say may or may not be true. The accumulation process inherent in the mind begins to mount solving some problems and introducing others. The various insights become useless at a certain point. This is my reference to the tapes repeating themselves. It becomes an endless loop with no way out. The whole process is directed at the intellect, by the intellect, for the intellect. It has nothing to do with Truth and transcendence of self. That is a mystery not solvable at any level of human understanding. That is the humility that implies total destruction. Total destruction of what? Your sense of who and what you are as well as everything you think you know. As UG was fond of saying, ‘ you will not survive this.’

    • Anon,

      I suspect you like to provocatively challenge us, even (especially?) if you broadly concur with what is being said, at its level. It is your way of kicking us out of the complacency of believing any theoretical construct is the answer. 😉

      At the risk of sounding traditional, enjoy Xmas and best wishes for the New Year.


  12. Anonymous,

    “The whole process is directed at the intellect, by the intellect, for the intellect. It has nothing to do with Truth and transcendence of self.”

    This is the key point on which some here disagree with you. You keep asserting it over and over again, as though mere repetition will suffice to convince us. It won’t, because what you are saying is not consistent with the scriptures that Advaitins study and follow (or try to). On the one hand, there is Anonymous with his views, conclusions come to by a single individual. On the other hand, we have the conclusions of many thousands of sages as distilled in the Upanishads, not to mention the commentaries thereon by Shankara. Who to believe? Who to trust on these matters? No contest, sorry. 🙂

    Best Regards,

    • In your poem by Whitman, the answer lies there.

      “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
      look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
      spectres in books,
      You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
      from me,
      You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

      It is not wise to take anything I say or through scripture said for YOUR truth? We are radiant beings, unique in our qualities, not cookie cutter products. Be your own radiance and see if any words hold up to that.

      Happy Holidays to all!

      • Anon,

        Glad you liked the Whitman quote. I thought of you when I read the part about “spectres in books.” I figured that would resonate with you. 🙂

        And I do agree that no words hold up to the self-effulgent radiance of Self. “Words fall back from it.”

        Happy Holidays!

  13. “The whole process is directed at the intellect, by the intellect, for the intellect.”

    That has to be so.
    Because it is precisely at the intellect, not the big toe, where the Truth of Oneness gets occluded through the imaginary “I-You,” “me-the other” split. It’s, hence, the doorway. Either cross it when the split dissolves or just stay at the door listening to the replays of the tape recorder.


  14. What Anonymous points out is not that different from what Ramana Mararshi and Ramakrishna would say. Neither emphasised the intellect or over-intellectualising this. I appreciate that many of this site’s bloggers may not agree with their view, but I don’t think it can be claimed that Ramana and Ramakrishna were not advaitins.

    From Maharshi’s Gospel:

    “Self-enquiry is the one infallible means, the only direct one, to realise the unconditioned, Absolute Being that you really are. […] every kind of sadhana [spiritual practice] except that of atma- vichara presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying on the sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practised. The ego may take different and subtler forms at the different stages of one’s practice, but is itself never destroyed. […] The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through sadhanas other than atma-vichara is just like the thief assuming the guise of a policeman to catch the thief, that is himself. Atma-vichara alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enables one to realise the pure, undifferentiated Being of the Self or the Absolute.”

    Atma-vichara, self-investigation, may (for some, like me) start of as an intellectual analyses, but Ramana’s focus in all his writing was to direct exclusive attention to the I-thought/feeling and away from the body-mind-world.

    Sadhu Om writes:
    Bhagavan says that atma-vicara is the direct path, not because he expects us to attack the mind directly, but because he expects us to turn directly towards self, ‘I am’, and by thus remaining in self to ignore the mind. Thus atma-vicara is, so to speak, avoiding and hiding from the mind instead of fighting it face to face. This is what is signified by Rama’s method of killing Vali.
    Vali had a boon that he would receive half of the strength of anyone he faced in battle, so he was automatically more powerful than any opponent he had to face. Therefore even Rama could not have killed him in face-to-face combat, so he had to hide behind a tree and shoot him from behind. Just as Vali gained half the strength of his opponent, if we try to fight the mind in direct combat, we will be giving it half of our strength, because our attention is what sustains and nourishes it, so the more we attend to it (that is, to its constant flow of thoughts), the more we are giving it strength. Therefore the only way to destroy the mind is by attending only to ‘I’ and thereby ignoring all the other thoughts that constitute the mind.
    All other sadhanas, which are only actions performed by ‘I’, attempt to destroy the mind using it as the means or instrument, and hence Bhagavan likens them to someone confronting Vali, or to a thief pretending to be a policeman trying to catch the thief, or to a person trying to get rid of his own shadow. Therefore Bhagavan advises us to ignore our shadow, the mind or ego, by turning our attention towards the sun, ‘I am’.

  15. Venkat,

    “Intellectualisation,” as you surely know, is a defense mechanism that uses reasoning to block out conflict. It is a tool to perpetuate oneself. Over-intellectualisation implies using even devious or dubious self-serving logic.
    It is a game that the sense of “I-am-a-separate-self” could indulge in to perpetuate itself or to create a veneer of pseudo Advaita. In other words, it is just another trick of the individuating ego.

    And as Shankara said it long ago and as we have discussed many a time in these columns, any action, even the holiest one may think of – either physical or mental – does not result in freeing oneself from one’s own ego. So the so-called liberation cannot be a “karma phala.” We also discussed that the concept of liberation as a “jnAna phala” (result of Knowledge), promoted by some schools of thought, strictly speaking lacks shAstraic support (though some disagreed).

    Clearly the argument here is neither of those above two points, viz., intellectualisation or actions to be taken.

    What I have been trying to point out is, though the type of formulation as UG did, is true, over-stretching it, possibly beyond what UG himself wanted to convey, is counterproductive.

    When UG said “there is no redemption for you” or “you cannot understand anything,” who or what is that “YOU” he was referring to? Obviously, of course, it means the questioner. But the deeper implication is, he is addressing the “separate sense of self” which wants to ‘pocket for itself’ an additional honorific “Liberated.”

    UG wanted to convey that the ‘sense of a separate me’ is non-existent and as such there is nothing it can understand or “do” to be liberated. It is the pink elephant below the bed.

    While all that is true, if one then leaves it at that without further exploration and investigation as you elaborately disucussed in your post, OR thinks in a self-congratulatory manner that I am a “radiant being, unique in qualities, not a cookie cutter product,” that would be falling short of UG’s intentions. One should not fall into a self-created trap of “I cannot know anything” or the other extreme “I am brahman.” As long as the sense of separate “I” exists, the effort will be inevitable. In fact, that effort itself is the separate “me.”

    Of course, as all of us know and I quoted many times, the folding back of the net that is cast by the fisherman is not in the hands of the net or the fish caught. (In this analogy net is the world, fish are the seekers and the fisherman is the ‘God’ in the poem of da Todi quoted by Anon).


  16. Dear Ramesam, thank you for your response. As you imply, discussion of these topics need to be nuanced to the listener. I think Anonymous was targeting those of us who thought we had an advanced understanding of these issues.

    I had a small insight the other day – though probably not a great insight for you and others on this site. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita carries a warning for us seekers. When Arjuna thinks he has an advanced understanding of jnana yoga and wants to go off to be a sannyasin, Krishna sees through this conceit and self-deception, realises that he still is a man of the world, and tells him to act. But he tells him to act such that he strives to do so without any thoughts of the fruits of the action, and ideally to pursue nishkamya karma. He also says that 1 in a thousand is genuinely interested in this venture, and of these only 1 in a thousand will realise their Self. And implicitly, once the mind is purified/attenuated, pursuing actions in the world will fall away ‘non-volitionally’, and one will naturally be a sannyasin.

    It is very easy for us to think that we have a holistic, conceptual knowledge of the map of advaita, like Arjuna, and be convinced about its veracity. But, as you say, do we really understand what it means to be without ego?

    There is a tendency these days to be absolutist in what we say and write, without appreciating the beauty of alternative pointers.

    Best wishes

    • PS What I am trying to get at here, expressed poorly, is that every other person, thinks he has “got it” and can now expertly parrot words of wisdom and cogent conceptual models of advaita. They even have websites and charge money for DVDs and seminars. When, most probably, egos are still intact, however much they may ‘know’ and be convinced by non-separation.

      This was Krishna’s warning to Arjuna and his affectation of wisdom. But one can only be answerable to oneself as to the existence or not of one’s ego. The deceit is primarily of oneself.

  17. Ramesam,

    As UG used to say ‘you can interpret what I say in any way you choose, it makes no difference’.

    I think you are using what I said in your own way to further your own ‘continuity’, an addiction that all of us share. This is what we seem to do. We arrange words to suit the way we see things. We try to explain to ourselves what we experience. Is this not what we do? Can you understand that this is directed to the so called ‘experiencer’ who happens to be of the same stuff that the explanation is made out of? We are not so different than the crazy guy who is walking around disheveled, lost in his own his own mind, babbling to himself.

    So, nothing that I say can be taken as anything but babble. Nothing. Can you say the same thing? Are your words any more enlightening than mine? UG saying ‘there is nothing to understand’ was a simple response to a question for someone who was trying to use their mind to become something they thought they wanted to be. He was the first to say he was not different than the sound of a dog barking. He was a real comedian.

    “I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled
    enlightenment.” – Buddha.

  18. Funny thing synchronicity. I’m just re-reading Guru Vachaka Kovai by Ramana & Murugunar.

    598: Those with body-consciousness, when they see a perfected jnani who abides as That, ask in an attempt to define the state of supreme jnana ‘Look! If that state is non-dual, how can they perform activities such as eating and so on?’ Such people are in fact proclaiming their identification with the inert body.

    599: A child bride who has not attained puberty will feel happy believing the marriage ceremony itself to be the experience of conjugal union. Similarly those who have not known the Self by careful investigation, by turning within, will declare their prattle, their book knowledge, to be non-dual jnana.

    600: Those who have learned the truth of the supreme Self through scriptures alone, who have a high opinion of themselves because of their superior intellect, but who fail to attain quiet repose by enquiring into the one who has learned the scriptures, thereby immersing themselves in bliss – these people test those who are established in mauna. What can one say of their ignorance?

  19. Venkat, Anon, and All,

    Are we making “it” sound too complicated by our formulations robbing the simplicity of “it”?
    The quotes from Kena upansihad, Buddha, Ramana, UG, etc. etc. cited in these columns, IMHO, are “pointing” towards something – something that IS and knowable, but not doable. They are all ‘pointers. What is said, the content, the physical text, the words, is NOT ‘the thing.’

    What is being pointed to is that inherent quality, the capability, the sentience, the sensor or the detector because of which or with which the ‘understanding’ happens – not the content of what is understood. The content understood (or not) is irrelevant. It is not about ‘interpretation’ or arranging the words in a preferred fashion or the continuation or not of any individual (who is just another pattern of some words). I hope you see what I mean. I just give up. In Silence ……….


  20. Ramesam,

    You are still trying to get something that you insist IS and KNOWABLE. Be it through words or silence, there is still this movement in you for something you insist that you lack. As UG has said over and over again, ‘this idea has been put in you through the culture that there is a perfect man.’ The jnani is your personal image of what you hope to be. All we do is try to replicate what we’ve seen or heard. We never question whether it has any reality or not. Is it real or is it an image in your mind? Without your mind, do you still have this image? Are you still trying to ‘be’ something? The only problem is the one you give to the reality of your pursuit. As UG would often say, ‘any movement you make is in the wrong direction and takes you further away from the truth’. Can you stop being a guru, Ramesam? Someone who has a ‘message’? The message never gets delivered. That is the ‘brink’ or ‘tipping point’. When do we really give up?

  21. Dear Anon,

    Good Morning and HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

    (It is already late for me in the night – I will respond tomorrow only, if I still have to).

    You say: “You are still trying to get something.”
    Thanks for the affection you show. But I do NOT.

    You say: “….. you insist that you lack.”
    Thanks again for your concern. But I DON’T.
    Where was a ‘lack’ expressed by me?

    You say: “The jnani is your personal image of what you hope to be.”
    NO. The body-mind Ramesam, X, Y, Z, …. will perish. I think we already said it.
    I don’t live with a hope. I am very clear there is neither a seeker nor a liberation.

    You say: “Are you still trying to ‘be’ something?”
    Absolutely NOT.

    You say: ” Can you stop being a guru, Ramesam?”
    Ah, I get the Guru epithet for the first time. Thanks for the (dis)honorific 🙂
    I do not wish to be one ever.

    You say: “The message never gets delivered.”
    Dog barks?

    You say: “When do we really give up?”
    When the breath stops. Or maybe not. It may be a change to a different movement. a ramesam doesn’t know. Absolute sepulchral stillness could be another imagination? Another teacher’s goal?

    But the fact is, there IS, obviously, SO VERY OBVIOUSLY, ‘something’ sentient, able to resonate, vibe, but not exactly the mind (for It knows the mind too); It is KNOWABLE because somewhere unlocatable there is that knowing of that ISNESS. One does not have to “get” it. It is with Anon, Ramesam, the dog that barks or doesn’t.

    One doesn’t need a guru to say this. And yes, UG is right, “any movement you make is in the wrong direction” because it is that something only that speaks thro’ the body – not a ramesam body or a Mr Nameless’s body that speaks,

    One does not have to add “and takes you further away from the truth.” Who needs truth or otherwise?


    • Ramesam
      “But the fact is, there IS, obviously, SO VERY OBVIOUSLY, ‘something’ sentient, able to resonate, vibe, but not exactly the mind (for It knows the mind too); It is KNOWABLE because somewhere unlocatable there is that knowing of that ISNESS. One does not have to “get” it. It is with Anon, Ramesam, the dog that barks or doesn’t.”

      Very well summarized!
      This posting has been studded with poems so I will add one more that fits your conclusion. This one is an excerpt from a Sufi Ghazal (poem) in Urdu – my English translation!

      In every atom speck with what splendor you are
      But intelligent ones are confused what you like and what you are

      Searched, looked could not find anywhere you are
      But the funny part is that where I am there you are

      Somewhere you are hiding as Adam
      Somewhere you appear as existence
      Even if I do not know about your existence
      I know about the one I call my existence
      If that is not you then what else you are

      Even when If you don’t come in my thought
      How come I still understand you are?

      How did one surrounded by wisdom become eternal?
      How did one who understood become god?

      In arguments philosophers do not find GOD
      In trying to untangle the cord they do not find head or tail leave alone god

      After a merry XMAS, Happy New Year to everyone!!

  22. Hi Ramesam, Anon

    Happy Christmas to you too.

    I don’t disagree with you about recognising the simplicity of the knowingness. But there is a being it, and a dissolution of the ego, of the identification with the body-mind, that also has to happen. That is where grace comes in – and Ramana’s self-abidance, Nisargadatta’s abidance in ‘I am’, which perhaps increases the probability of such grace.

    I think we are broadly on same page.

    Best wishes to all,

  23. Hi all

    You may be interested in this link to some current talks by Sri Nochur Venkataram on Bhagavan Ramana’s Aksharamanamalai.

    The talks start at about the 18 minute mark, after some bhajans. This first talk touches upon grace, entering the stream (!) and analysis of deep sleep.

    Best wishes,

  24. Anon,

    He is quite well known in Ramanasramam, giving talks on Bhagavan. He spent a lot of time with many of the living disciples of Bhagavan. He is also well-versed in Sankara.

    So his talks weave Sankara with Ramana. This particular talk is interesting in that he brings out the point that there are effectively two states – dream and deep sleep. And whatever is not there in deep sleep is not real.

    For someone relatively new to Ramana, he can bring to life Ramana’s teaching better than just reading a book. It also moves us on from the over-intellectual approach that we tend to adopt. Ramana was both very rational / logical in his self-enquiry approach but also had a strong love/bhakti element to him.

    Have you read any Ramana?


  25. Venkat,

    I became very interested in Ramana and the 2K’s 45 years ago. I probably read most of what was available. I was drawn to him as a presence, but never really was drawn to his brand of self-enquiry.

    I wasn’t as impressed as you with the bits of the talk that I listened to on this recording. I’m not particularly drawn to this very Indian way of describing things with all the flourishes, stories, and vocabulary. He seems more like a preacher to me that has learned his lessons well.

    I often get the feeling that in a sense, words were put into Ramana’s mouth by the people he came into contact with after his awakening. Here was a very simple boy, not versed in scriptures or any other philosophy, who somehow stumbled into this event. There was nothing he could use to describe what happened to him to other people other than the existing religious culture in India which was taught to him by his devotees through books and the help of scholars who wanted to put him into some kind of classification to suit their own concepts. This may sound harsh but it is not far from the truth. The demand from others to have them explain and teach the unteachable is the beginning of trouble. Yet, for the sage, the compassion for others will always elicit some kind of response. You just can’t build a sure-fire path from it as everyone tries to do.

  26. Anon

    Unless you can speak Tamil, what was available on Ramana in English was limited and poorly translated. My personal view is that Ramana goes beyond what JK talked about and the life he lived was exemplary in the sense of no-ego – unlike all of the self-annoited teachers that are running around today.

    I would highly recommend getting Guru Vachaka Kovai, either of (or both) translations by David Godman and Michael James. This book has everything that could possibly be asked condensed in it. And get Michael James’ translation of Ramana’s own compositions – Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Undiyar. These are both very condensed poems, but contain the essence of Ramana’s thought which – I would disagree with you – represent the essence of his insight rather than a re-formulation of Vedantic thought.

    Before these were available in English, it was easy to see why Ramana was relatively inaccessible compared to Nisargadatta and JK. However now that they are available, they provide the gist of what you need to know, without any superfluous dialogue. They make Nisrgadatta and JK look positively verbose!


    • It’s easy to misunderstand what I said about Ramana. He was certainly a genuine article, so to speak. Often, the people around men like this tend to contribute a flavor that communication between sage and seeker takes on. It is guided mostly by cultural beliefs and concepts which include religion. For me, the presence is enough. I don’t need to be convinced through words. And, yes, I’ve read bits and pieces of the poems.

      Any sage that either spoke or not was decided on who was around them. My own association with UG and others gave me a first hand view of what happens when you ‘hang around the guru’. The party line is learned and repeated over and over again. You begin to know the answers to every question yet nothing has changed for you. A kind of elitism grows, a hierarchy of sorts. You become worse off than when you started. We have to throw off all of this and that means coming to the end of seeking, the end of becoming. The rest is out of your hands.

  27. Anon
    “I often get the feeling that in a sense, words were put into Ramana’s mouth by the people he came into contact with after his awakening.”
    I wonder why you say that. Most of Ramana’s dialogs were brief, in english and well documented. Now, i am agree with you when it comes to Maharaj Nisargadatta. All of ND’s satsangs were in colloquial Marathi translated by an Indian translator and then eventually re-translated by western followers. Just take a look at the attached live satsang video of ND maharaj and you will get an idea of what I mean.

  28. Vijay,

    My reply to Venkat is echoed in the video that you posted. In many ways, Nisargadatta was similar to UG in the feeling and intensity of his communication. Both pointed out vehemently and constantly, the fallacy of conceptual thinking and its eventual abandonment. Until this is understood and takes place in someone, they are chained to repetition, words, and a path. And, it is very important to smoke beedis while pursuing truth!

  29. Vijay, most of Ramana’s dialogues were actually in Tamil. “Talks” were notes taken of Tamil conversations and written down in English. This is why most people refer to Ramana’s own Tamil compositions plus Guru Vachaka Kovai, which he checked every verse of.

    Anon, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ramana’s presence brought out lions among men – the genuine article amongst many around him: just take a look at his close disciples, who were the main recorders of his words. Murugunar, who was his principal foil, wrote Guru Vachaka Kovai and insightful commentaries on Ramana’s works like Aksharamanamalai. Lakshmana Sarma who took daily instruction from Ramana on Ullardu Narpadu over 3 years and wrote the best commentary on it (Ramana’s opinion); LS’ own poetic work Sri Ramanaparavidyopanishad (‘The Supreme Science as taught by Sri Ramana) is exemplary in itself as a teaching of non duality. Sadhu Om, Sadhu Natanananda, Kanakammal and Annamalai Swami have also written commentaries or their own works, which are equally impressive and self-effacing. These are just to mention a few (before even mentioning the more well known characters such as Poonjaji and Robert Adams).

    All of these close disciples gave up their ordinary lives and came to live at Arunachala, and relied on what came to them by chance (took bhiksha). Their teaching and words do not have a trace of ego – they did not set themselves up as gurus, but only pointed to and expanded on the words of Ramana. Read any of their works and this will shine through.

    There is a qualitative difference between these disciples and most of the followers of say Nisargadatta (who set themselves up in the guru business) or JK (who were mainly intellectuals and probably did not get beyond the intellectual’s ego).

    Ramana’s ultimate teaching was summa iru – just be – be without concepts, without ego, just be that beingness which is your real identity. The essence of his teaching fulfils Occam’s Razor in my view; yes there is a bit of cultural association around it, but not much, and the essence is what Ramana and his disciples continually re-emphasised.

  30. ‘Deification’ is a sure way of playing to the gallery.
    We find, quite often, Gurus, teachers, speakers, leaders and ‘concept promoters’ from all walks of life — be it religion, politics, social reform, spirituality or a cult — innocuously resorting to this technique. Some even create the symbols where there are none, and deify them to win hearts. Surprisingly (or in certain cases, not so surprisingly) discerning people too seem to fall for it.

    To reify or deify is a natural tendency of the human mind, See, for example here:

    (Of course, the article cited above does not discuss another sense in which the word mind is used in Vedanta – to stand for all the perceptions (both internal (like thoughts) and external (like the bodily sensations and sensory perceptions) cumulatively taken together. That’s what the entire objective world is and therefore, elders describe the ‘world’ itself to be a thought. It then squarely fits with the discussion presented in the above article).

    I wonder some times, if those who are deep into Advaita and claim to be its teachers, preachers or promoters are too scared to admit what Gaudapada said in his famous kArikA II – 32 (and even III-32) and stick with it without invoking the argument of tailoring the teaching for the sake of those who are newly getting exposed to Advaita. If they are honest, is it necessary to deify select human bodies?


  31. Dear Ramesam

    In many ways I agree with you about the human tendency to put leaders on a pedestal, to deify, etc – in all walks of life. But there is an equivalent tendency to deify science, intellect and logic – especially for those of us brought up with a western scientific education.

    And yet there is something that is beyond explanation, rationalisation in how we and the world came to be, or appeared to be. As we previously alluded to, there is an element of grace, of the mystical, of the unknown to fall into. And it is said, a true guru can represent the catalyst for that unknown. Nisargadatta and Ramana both used to say that the outer guru is just a manifestation of your inner guru – the outer pushing you, and the inner pulling you, inwards. And hence the tradition of self-surrender to a guru, to attenuate the will of the ego.

    At the end of his commentary to Mandukyakarika, even Sankara prostrated to Gaudapada in his concluding salutation: “the most adored amongst the adorable . . . I make obeisance with my whole being to his holy feet”.

    Sankaracharya Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha, when asked about how to treat a guru (in Exalting Elucidations) responded:
    “He [the disciple] should not view the Guru, Isvara and Atman as different . . . He should have a reverential attitude towards him . . devoutly prostrating before them [the Guru’s padukas].”

    Given that jnana has been defined as knowledge, many of us believe that we can come to a rationale conceptual schematic of the truth of the world through our intellect. Hence 3 year courses in Vedanta. Hence the proliferation of advaita gurus offering seminars and DVDs teaching “you are awareness”.

    Sri Vidyathheertha, when asked about how to discriminate the real guru, between the many who pose as sages, suggests using the description of a jnani contained in the Bhagavad-Gita as a yardstick. As I previously commented, this is a pretty tough yardstick, which most of the teachers selling their wares on the internet could not pass. We forget that Krishna tells Arjuna that only a very rare one achieves this realisation, and s/he won’t go about broadcasting it.

    And we forget I think the words of the sages that this realisation is something beyond the mind, and cannot be grasped by the mind. It is a mystery, which ‘we’ cannot control.

    With best wishes for the New Year.


  32. Hi Venkat,

    I have to hand a copy of Exalting Elucidations, and thank you again for the reference. It’s a fascinating work, to be sure, but you seem to be taking only statements from it that support your views, while omitting those that perhaps do not. Apologies if I have read you wrong, but based on your prior comments about this work, I had the clear impression the 35th Acharya of Sringeri Math was saying that Liberation couldn’t take place without the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi. Yet on page 243, I find the following:

    “D: Can one attain jnana without experiencing nirvikalpa samadhi?

    A: Jnana is nothing but the knowledge of one’s True nature. Technically, it can be obtained even through just vicara (enquiry). Nirvikalpa samadhi is a wonderful means but it is improper to say that it is the only means.”

    “Jnana is nothing but the knowledge of one’s True nature.” This is virtually no different from what Swami Dayananda said, and no different from what Dennis has been saying.

    Similarly, you refer to the Acharya’s comment on using the BG description as a yardstick, but you left out some important qualifications he made. On page 9, the specific quote is as follows:

    “D: Nowadays, many pose as sages. Such being the case, how is one to identify a real Guru?

    A: No specific rules exist regarding this. If we are very sincere, Isvara Himself will lead us to a Guru. We can see for ourselves whether the person whom we wish to have as a Guru is a jnanin and desires our well-being. Though it is difficult to conclude whether one is a jnanin or not, we can use the description of a jnanin contained in the Bhadavadgita as a yardstick. However, while doing this, it should be remembered that the description was not given to select jnanin-s.”

    You left out that it is difficult to conclude whether someone is a jnani or not even with the BG template. And you also left out the very important last sentence. He is saying the BG is a good yardstick, but don’t apply it for that purpose without understanding the intent of those verses — which were not for the purpose of choosing a guru or deciding whether or not someone is a jnani. A useful pointer, in other words, but do not pour concrete on it and formalize it, etc.

    Also, the whole of Chapter 39 (“Differing Views in Advaita Texts”) could be quoted in its entirety as well. Can you point to anything published by the current Acharya of Sringeri that officially (or even informally) talks against Swami Dayananda’s specific interpretation of Vedanta? As far as I have been able to determine, the argument has mainly been between devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Swami D. I could be convinced with actual evidence (not hearsay), but otherwise I remain quite skeptical that anyone in authority at Sringeri has actually spoken critically of Swami Dayananda’s teachings.

    As to the rarity of Liberation, if the scriptures say 1 in 1,000 will make the effort, and of those 1 in 1,000 will succeed, that is 1 in a million. When the total population of the planet was in the tens of millions, as it was during the period of antiquity when the Vedas were composed, true sages were indeed very rare (if this formula is valid). But with 7 billion people currently alive, there should be at least 7,000 enlightened sages roaming around. I don’t think there are quite that many non-dual websites yet. 🙂

    Happy New Year!

    Best Regards,

    • Dear Charles,

      “As to the rarity of Liberation, if the scriptures say 1 in 1,000 will make the effort, and of those 1 in 1,000 will succeed, that is 1 in a million.”

      Just a little quick clarification.

      1. In the BG verse VII-3, the Sanskrit word ‘sahasra’ has to be understood as ‘many, many’ (infinitely many) and it does not mean exactly one thousand. The Sanskrit scriptures often use ‘sahasra’ to indicate a very large number. So the arithmetic calculation of 1 in a million will not be correct in interpreting the verse from BG.

      2. The position of Sringeri is very much unlike that of a Pope or Maula who issues fatwas. Sringeri does not adjudicate disputes, issue official declarations, authenticate definitions/concepts etc. etc. They are purely concerned with following whatever the Amnaya dharma was established by Shankara, they themselves sticking very strictly to the old ritualistic procedures. They do not indulge in resolving the disputes even amongst the other three Peetha-s, let alone other organisations.


      • Hi Ramesam,

        Thanks for clarifying the translation of “sahasra,” but I hope you know I was 100% joking about the 1-in-a-million mathematics of jnana! Joking aside, however, I did have a point. “Rare” is a relative definition when one is attempting to measure the frequency of something occurring in a population of human beings.

        Regarding the position of Sringeri in adjudicating disputes, that’s an extremely helpful point of information, thank you. I’m actually rather disappointed to learn this! After all, Shankara was famous for establishing the critical tradition throughout India. No argumentation or debate between the Peetha-s or other organizations? How boring! 🙂

        Best Regards,

  33. Hi Charles,

    I never made any of the following comments that you have ascribed to me – please go back and check:

    1. That nirvikalpa samadhi was necessary for enlightenment. You are quite right – Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha specifically said it was’t, as did Ramana Maharishi. Also note that Sri Abhinava states that enlightenment can be obtained through vichara – self-enquiry – which is what Ramana said.

    2. That any of the Sankaracharyas of Sringeri critiqued Sw D. I did point out that some of the teachings from Swami D didn’t correspond with what the Sankaracharyas of Sringeri had stated and that therefore to equate traditional sampradaya exclusively with Swami D’s interpretation, and implicitly not recognise other interpretations as not “traditional’ is incorrect. BTW the current Sankaracharya of Sringeri recently honoured Swami D for his role in promoting Advaita around the world.

    As for Sri Abhinava’s suggestion of a yardstick – thanks for providing the full quote. I think it is quite clear what his intent was in response to the question posed of how to determine who is a real sage. Others can determine for themselves the import of what he meant – you and I can agree to disagree if you don’t believe that it is a relevant yardstick.

    Finally I don’t believe there is any issue between devotees of Ramana and Swami D. Swami D’s followers seem to continually emphasise that self-enquiry is not a path to liberation, and at the same time seem to hold the position that Ramana was a great teacher; to square the glaring contradiction they state that Ramana’s disciples are all misled by advocating that self-enquiry was his primary teaching. This is an inconsistent and ill-informed position as I have fairly carefully laid out previously. So, which specific point do you think I am misrepresenting:
    a) That Swami D’s followers advocate that self-enquiry is not a means to self-realisation
    b) That they acknowledge Ramana was a great teacher
    c) That Swami D’s followers have stated that Ramana’s disciples have misled everyone by promulgating that self-enquiry was Ramana’s primary teaching, when in fact it wasn’t. [In which case, what do you think it was?]

    Please note I have been very careful not to specifically critique Swami D, because I haven’t read his comments on Ramana and his teaching. I have however critiqued his followers who have made such comments.

    Happy new year to you too.

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Venkat,

      Thanks for your reply. Let me please try to clarify on a few items.

      I stand corrected. You did say (in a comment on 11/16) that nirvikalpa samadhi was not strictly necessary for jnana. My apologies for overlooking that you had carefully qualified this point. In case I further misread you, let me ask: When the Acharya uses the term “vichara,” do you take this to mean precisely the same as Ramana’s specific formulation of self-enquiry? If so, why? Is not the general term vichara (enquiry) far more broad in its potential meaning?

      I did not say that you said the Sankaracharyas of Sringeri had criticized Swami D. I asked if you could point to examples of such criticism. Given that Vedanta is a critical tradition, then if the teachings of Sw. D. are so much “at variance” with those of the Sankaracharyas I would expect there to be some authoritative debate or discussion on these points. If you are saying this is not the case, then I am pleased to hear it.

      As to equating “traditional sampradaya exclusively with Swami D’s interpretation,” when has anyone actually said that here on AV? On the main section of the site, there are numerous links to resources, articles, and books having nothing to do with the Swami’s school. Sorry, but it seems to me you are aiming at a straw target with this repeated criticism.

      “Please note I have been very careful not to specifically critique Swami D, because I haven’t read his comments on Ramana and his teaching.”

      In the same comment from 11/16 noted above, you also made other remarks, such as: “You state Dayananda as a ‘traditional’ teacher, yet time and again this has been credibly challenged …” And, “It is an elegant trap that Dayananda has constructed.”

      Scare quotes around “traditional.” “Elegant trap …” These are not direct criticisms of Swami Dayananda? Your remark above about 3-year Vedanta courses was not a veiled criticism? Can you at least see how it might appear otherwise to some other readers?

      What I think you are “misrepresenting” has nothing to do with the choices you have listed. I think you do the same thing we all do. You argue passionately for a position, and in the process tend to cherry-pick your quotes, sometimes overlooking competing nuances that are important and pertinent. I was trying to point out some nuances I thought you might be overlooking. As far as I can tell from a quick reading, there is far more common ground (in general) between Sri Abhinava’s views and those of Sw. D. than there is daylight between them. But it’s fine with me if you disagree on this, so no worries.

      When you talk about those who “continually emphasise that self-enquiry is not a path to liberation,” I don’t know who you mean. I’ve seen it discussed, certainly, but never “continually emphasised,” except perhaps by you! Admittedly, I don’t read all the relevant forums, so have limited exposure compared to you and other experts here. But to me it makes perfect sense that Swami D.’s followers would acknowledge Ramana as a great sage, while simultaneously feeling free to critique what he said on specific points of the teaching. Provided this is handled with respect, is this not the essence of the critical system that is Vedanta? I’ve never read anything from these sources you habitually criticize that seem to me disrespectful of Sri Ramana, but I do recognize that what constitutes respect of the lack thereof is often a very subjective matter.

      Anyway, as always, it’s stimulating and challenging to engage with you. Thanks for another round of dharma combat on New Year’s Eve. 🙂


  34. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for the detailed comment.
    I have nothing to differ from what you expressed.

    What I was trying to highlight is slightly different and I am sure, you are well aware of the point that was made by me.
    You are well studied of Ramana’s teachings. Is there any indication any where in what he said that worshiping his picture/idol , bhajans and stotrams (hymns of praise) on his name/personality is a way to Self-Realization. Did he ever tacitly encourage people to bow at his feet for a price as many modern day teachers tend to do? When we know (no great intellect is required for this) that all human bodies do have to perish (jAtasya hi dhruvo mRityuH BG II-27), is not deification of a specific body dualistic ? I am not confident that such practices represent Ramana’s teaching. Showing reverence is a different matter altogether, as you know. My point is about the presenttion of siddhAnta (the principle).


  35. Charles

    The comments you quote from me on Dayananda, were part of a discussion with Dennis, challenging whether his is the only traditional authoritative interpretation of Sankara. They need to be read in the context of that discussion. Let’s not reopen now.

    I’d agree with you on your comment on vichara, and that it is not entirely clear in Exacting Elucidations what his view of this is.

    As for the criticism of self-enquiry, try reading “Vedanta the solution” which Dennis is serialising – it has a chapter on it. Paramarthananda, when he lectures on Sat Darshanam, says that Ramana intended his teaching to be studied in the context of Vedanta scriptures (he never said anything of the sort; if anything it was the opposite, don’t get bogged down in scriptures; this is not to say that he had great respect for Sankara and the scriptures) and that “who am I” has been misunderstood by ‘some’ of his followers who are cultists (Ramana makes clear that self-enquiry is his primary teaching, and that all other paths are a detour). Have a listen to his talks on Hinduonline.

    As I said before, I don’t have an issue if they simply said that Ramana was wrong. The issue arises with saying self-enquiry won’t get you anywhere, and yet claiming Ramana as their own by selectively interpreting one sanskrit translation of two of his works through their lens. As JK used to say, listen afresh without your conditioning and prejudices – always a hard thing to do, more so if you are consciously using your conditioning to interpret it!

    Can I suggest that we draw a line there Charles on this; its probably not of interest to most people. You will come to your own conclusion from reading Ramana and some of the references above, which I’m sure we’ll disagree on!


    I agree with your points on Ramana. My point was that up until recently, the only real Ramana material was Talks and Day by Day, and some basic translations of his main works. Now, there are some very good translations of his works, together with commentaries by people who were with him; so it is far easier now to get a fuller view of his teaching than was previously possible. At least that has been my experience, between trying to read him 25 years ago and today.

    Best wishes to both of you,


  36. Venkat,

    I have read Vedanta the Solution and found it very helpful for understanding some of the basic concepts and terminology of Advaita. I know the section you are referring to and I also agree with the logic presented therein. To be fair, I have only listened to Swami P.’s talks on the Mandukya, not the specific lectures you refer to. So I’m not in a position to comment further on what Swami P. said regarding the teaching method of Ramana.

    “Can I suggest that we draw a line there Charles on this; its probably not of interest to most people.”

    Fair enough. Thank you for the quick responses, and have a great holiday weekend.


  37. Ramesam,

    I’ve just been reflecting on our conversation, and I just wanted to clarify.

    When we deconstruct the jnana of vedanta to simply mean intellectual knowledge, we forget the Bhagavad Gita and Sankara’s yardsticks of how a jnani would behave: we forget that there is a radical dissolution of the ego, of concepts and a functioning on a different plane (‘contentment with what comes by chance’ as BG puts it), which Anon continually points out.

    So in the thicket of advaitic knowledge that is out there, it seems to me important to apply viveka early on to discriminate those affecting wisdom like Arjuna, and the rare ones who naturally function as BG describes, recognising that there may be false positives and false negatives. Ramana and his exemplary disciples, Ramakrishna and his monks, the monks of Sankara’s mutts, Nisargadatta & Ranjit Maharaj, JK and UGK all come to mind; I’m sure there are others who don’t even write or teach and are invisible.

    This I think is why Nisargadatta up until the end, paid homage to photos he had on his wall – that of his guru, of Ramana Maharshi and Maurice Frydman. He did this, in accord with BG, where Krishna says that a jnani cannot but set an example for the rest of the world. When Ganesan, Ramana’s nephew, went to visit Nisargadatta, Nisargadatta did a full body prostration to Ganesan, saying that he had never had the opportunity to do that before his uncle.

    So the point of reverence, a pedestal even, is not that the jnanis expect it, but rather to serve as a beacon in the fog.

  38. Venkat & Ramesam
    Interestingly, a question was asked to him(ND) – why the pictures of Samarth Ramdas & Swami Siddheshwar (his Guru) still show up? Nisargadatta replied -” it does not matter if did or did not but in my case I just do it”.
    Chandogya Upanishad 7 -25 talks about Rati and Krida after knowledge. It is interpreted by some (!) as – If it is krida then lokasangraha, pooja & archa and satsangs it all still goes on. This way other un-liberated (?) ones benefit!
    But I agree with ramesam’s caution. Under the name of loksangraha one can endlessly get trapped into personal deification of a guru, holy man or an institution/mission.

  39. Dear Venkat and Vijay,

    Thank you for the observations.

    @ Vijay: Thanks for the nudge.

    @ Venkat: “…the point of reverence, a pedestal even, is not that the jnanis expect it, but rather to serve as a beacon in the fog.”

    The short (perhaps cliched) response is “Yes and No” to what you said.

    Yes — when there is a “business” of teaching.
    That is to say that there is someone who had never heard of the Advaitic message and s/he has to be ‘lured’ to hear the message, and in order to get his attention there is a need to create an ‘image’ (by keeping some one on a pedestal; describing role-models; providing lists of do’s and don’ts etc.), so that he develops a confidence in the messenger to listen to what is being said, accepts the tools provided and goes home to examine the message by himself …. ….. ….. etc. etc.

    No — if the message is already ‘heard.’
    Perhaps the posting made at the end of 2011 at a Blog I happen to maintain (or maybe parts of the discussion therein) could be relevant. Link:


  40. Vijay, Ramesam

    Thanks for you comments. And Ramaesam, thanks for the link to your note – in the spirit of the last couple of paragraphs of that note . . .

    To be honest, I find myself rather bemused in the position I am putting forward! I am an anarchist by inclination, firmly believing that leadership and followership are the major causes of ill both outside and inside.

    However I would suggest that an intellectual would always sniff at the idea of reverence to another. I think you are equating jnana with intellectual knowledge / conviction, and perhaps don’t buy the idea of a radical dissolution of the ego leading to a totally different way of living, which cannot be volitionally ‘done’. Perhaps you are right.

    Ramana / Murugunar explain this reverence / devotion in the following:

    Guru Vachaka Kovai, v310: The great delusion caused by the ignorant ego create the sense of separateness, which conceives the differences such as Guru-disciple, Shiva-jiva,, etc. One’s attainment of the State of Silence, where such a sense of separateness never rises, is the meaningful Namaskaram (obeisance) which one should make towards one’s Guru.

    Padamalai: “Meditating on me with no sense of difference [between us] is accepting my grace and offering yourself to me. This in itself is enough”.

    And, I put it to you that even “if the message is already heard”, then there may just also be a non-volitional outpouring of love / appreciation from consciousness to [the purest expression of] consciousness. Murugunar wrote Sri Ramana Anubuti to express his feelings on self-realisation; just 2 verses if I may:

    “I was a learned fool. My flawed mind knew nothing until I came to dwell with Him whose glance filled my heart with the light off awareness. Dwelling in that gracious state of peace whose nature is holy silence, so hard to gain and know, I entered into union with the deathless state of the knowledge of Reality”

    “I was wandering bewildered in the mind’s deluded labyrinth of dreams, rushing hither and thither, desiring one thing then another, until the joy of union with the Lord welled up within me, my body merged into the infinite light of divine wisdom, and my heart was filled with a deep inner tranquility”.

    And just to remember that Murugunar wasn’t just a deluded devotee, it might be worth recollecting Swami Chinmayananda outpouring:
    “Sri Ramana is not a theme for discussion; he is an experience, he is a state of consciousness. Sri Ramana was the highest reality and the cream of all the scriptures in the world. He was there for all to see how a master can live in perfect detachment. Though in the mortal form, he lived as the beauty and purity of the infinite”

    With best wishes

  41. PS From Sri Atmananda’s Notes on Spiritual Discourses:


    Think of your Guru only in the dualistic sphere. Don’t apply your intellect to it. It is far beyond your intellect. Apply your heart to it and get lost in the Guru. Then the Ultimate dances like a child before you.
    But when you think of the real ‘I’-principle or ‘Consciousness’, think that they are the absolute Reality itself, beyond name and form.
    All these are but synonyms of the ultimate Reality. But Guru alone has the revered place of honour and veneration in all planes. It is an experience that sometimes when you go deep into pure Consciousness and get lost in it (nirvikalpa samadhi of the Jnyanin), you see the person of your Guru there, and this vision throws you into an ecstatic joy taking you even beyond sat-cit-ananda. Blessed indeed are you then.

  42. What is being discussed concerning guru seems to be a very Indian cultural archetype. For whatever reasons, the literature is full of this kind of imagery which is primarily emotionally based, devotional. Like every other arising in consciousness, it is temporary and part of the self structure that every culture is made of and every seeker is involved with. It is what keeps the ball rolling, so to speak. ‘Me’ needs some kind of experience for its continuity, for its existence.

  43. This is an example of the kind of dialog that used to take place with UG regarding self and seeking. No imagery was ever setup by him to discuss ‘what is’, ‘reality’, and the simple illusions that all seekers are facing. If that is not Advaita in its purest sense, not in the convoluted way it has been shaped by scholars, priests, and intellectuals who think they’ve understood anything.

  44. Thanks Anon – interesting clip.

    Just to be clear, Ramana never encouraged obeisance to his physical body – his view is summed up by “Self-realisation cannot be attained by bowing of the body, but only by a bowing of the ego”.

    I just came across this from Ramana, which helps substantiate Ramesam’s case, but also goes to the issue of jnana as externally-derived knowledge.

    “The grace of the Guru is only this Self-awareness that is one’s own true nature. It is the being consciousness by which he is unceasingly revealing his existence. This divine upadesa is always going on naturally in everyone. As this upadesa alone is what reveals the natural attainment of the Self through one’s own experience, the mature ones need at no time seek the help of external beings for jnana upadesa. The upadesa obtained from outsiders in forms such as sounds, gestures, and thoughts are only mental concepts. Since the meaning of the word upadesa is only ‘abiding in the Self’ or ‘abiding as the Self’, and since this is one’s own real nature, so long as one is seeking the Self from outside, Self-realisation cannot be obtained.”

  45. Venkat,

    Do you really think there is something called a ‘Self’ to realize? This term is so misleading. It seems a typically Indian creation, a cultural anomaly. Out of this milieu of thought, men like JK and UG rose up and out of this cultural swamp bringing a fresh and altogether radical view of all of this. How do you juggle any philosophy or religious point of view after you read what these men have to say? Both have pointed out continuously the impossibility of following any line of thought that leads to any self/Self, and have explained painstakingly what this notion of self/Self is all about. If you didn’t quote JK, I could understand the pursuit toward ‘becoming’ something other than what you are. But since you are familiar with him, I guess what he says doesn’t register with you. And, UG is like a triple dose of JK. Hard to swallow, but the finish is everlasting………….

    The only thing I see is the deception we have in place that utterly blinds us to what we are, which is not a self, not a being, not a thing.

  46. Anon, I don’t disagree. I guess I’m comfortable with what is being pointed out, without getting concerned about the ambiguities of language, and cultural tradition. Even UGK in the clip talked about “universal mind”. But all this doesn’t matter, its just a concept.

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