Nothing To Do?

A Question that is often raised in Non-dual discussions is:

“Do you need to “become” brahman or are you brahman already?

“The implication in raising such a question is that there is nothing more to do than just hearing the teaching, “you are already brahman,” and lo, behold, you are brahman!

But such a statement, IMHO, is misleading and even mischievous.

I suggest, therefore, reformulating that question in order to arrive at what actually Advaita points to. The reformulated version would be something like this:

“Are you right now Pure Awareness, unborn and immutable, undivided, immortal and untainted by anything else?
OR
Are you right now Awareness + a load of various other things which are mortal, constantly changing, inert and limited?”

If one can correctly identify oneself between the above two alternatives, one will immediately come to know of the answer by oneself. It’s not a question of becoming. If one happens to identify oneself with a “form,” that form obviously delimits one in his/her all-pervasion. Only being “formless” can allow all-pervasion. Therefore, it goes without saying that for one to identify oneself with the formless brahman or Awareness, one has to transcend being in a form. The seeker has to shed what s/he is not; Then s/he will shine as brahman.

kaTha Upanishad tells us:

विमुक्तश्च विमुच्यते । — 2.5.1, Katha.

Having become free, he becomes emancipated.
Shankara adds a helpful explanation. He says:

इहैवाविद्याकृतकामकर्मबन्धनैर्विमुक्तो भवति । विमुक्तश्च सन्विमुच्यते ;

पुनः शरीरं न गृह्णातीत्यर्थः ॥

Meaning: Even here (while still living), he becomes free; free from the desire of bondage and duty, created by ignorance. He becomes emancipated, i.e., he does not take up a body again. (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

Advaita holds Self-knowledge as “प्राप्तस्य प्राप्ति:, निवृत्तस्य निवृत्तिः” which means rediscovering what we already possess. Knowledge of the Self is a siddha vastu (accomplished thing) and not a sAdhya (to be achieved). One has to be reminded only – like in the Story of The Misplaced Necklace.

But it does not mean there is nothing to do!

14 thoughts on “Nothing To Do?

  1. As a corollary of the Blog Post, it appears to me that there is a 180 deg difference in the perception of Advaita teaching by the Western teachers and the traditional ones.

    In the West, it seems as though, (I may be wrong), the seeker’s approach is that their life will all be hunky-dory with all bells and whistles, if one groks the teaching successfully.

    On the other hand, I guess, what the scriptures point to is that the present life is something like a paste already squeezed out of the tube; of course, a little tinkering is possible to happen; what is, however, more important is that one steps out of the stream of samsAra for good, never to come back again into it, once the teaching is imbibed and assimilated. It’s not much about polishing and propping up the current life.

    regards,

  2. Yes and no!

    You seem to be making things more complicated than they really are, Ramesam.

    Since there is ONLY Brahman, it is impossible to escape the fact that one IS already Brahman.

    The problem for most seekers is that they do not KNOW this to be so. Consequently, they suffer from all of the identifications with body, mind etc, as you point out.

    Yes, we DO have to do something. What we have to do is remove the wrong notions so that the truth is realized. Then, although the body-mind continues until death (when the prArabdha has been played out), there is no more suffering as such.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    • Dennis,

      I agree with your explanation. We are already Brahman. Only thing to do is to remove adhyasa by Neti Neti practice.

      • Umesh Ji,

        Does it not sound something like this:

        “I am always 70 Kg. Only thing to do is to remove the 30 Kg extra by it’s not-me, it’s not-me practice!” 🙂 🙂

        regards,

        • Ramesam ji,

          As I understand it, you assume to be 70 kg but in actuality you are 50 kg. Only thing needed is to remove the false assumption of 70 kg.
          Since you are already Brahman only thing left for you to do Neti Neti (Not this Not this) practice.
          Regards
          Umesh

  3. Hi Dennis,

    Thanks for your observations.
    While you are charging me that I “seem to be making things more complicated than they really are,” I am afraid, you appear to take the other extreme position of the Neo-s saying, “there is ONLY Brahman.”

    There are more things, players and entities around. For example, Shankara writes in his adhyAsa bhAShya:

    “One first superimposes the internal organ, possessed of the idea of ego, on the Self, the witness of all the manifestations of that organ; then by an opposite process, one superimposes on the internal organ etc. that Self which is opposed to the non-Self and which is the witness of everything. Thus occurs this superimposition that has neither beginning nor end but flows on eternally, that appears as the manifested universe and its apprehension, that conjures up agentship and enjoyership, and that is perceived by all persons.”

    Doscerning all those not-Self entities and after separating them out, identifying oneself with the true Self and finally dissolving all the others into one’s own Self is not that easily accomplished as spoken or written here.

    In addition, in my comment above, I tried to point out that the Western teachers and their followers seem to be concerned more with improving the lot of their “current” life, whereas the scriptures and Shankara appear to be talking about making sure that one “does not take up a body again,” i.e. no more birth.

    That has been the main thrust of the OP

    regards,

    • “I tried to point out that the Western teachers and their followers seem to be concerned more with improving the lot of their “current” life, whereas the scriptures and Shankara appear to be talking about making sure that one “does not take up a body again,” i.e. no more birth.”

      Ramesam, this passage from Heinrich Zimmer’s “Philosophies of India” may be of interest:

      “A basic fact generally disregarded by those who “go in” for Indian wisdom is this one of the total rejection of every last value of humanity by the Indian teachers and winners of redemption from the bondages of the world. “Humanity” (the phenomenon of the human being, the ideal of its perfection, and the ideal of the perfected human society) was the paramount concern of Greek idealism, as it is today of Western Christianity in its modem form; but for the Indian sages and ascetics, the Mahatmas and enlightened Saviors, “humanity” was no more than the shell to be pierced, shattered, and dismissed. For perfect non-activity, in thought, speech, and deed, is possible only when one has become dead to every concern of life: dead to pain and enjoyment as well as to every impulse to power, dead to the interests of intellectual pursuit, dead to all social and political affairs-deeply, absolutely, and immovably uninterested in one’s character as a human being. The sublime and gentle final fetter, virtue, is thus itself something to be severed. It cannot be regarded as the goal, but only as the beginning of the great spiritual adventure of the “Crossing-Maker,” a stepping place to the superhuman sphere. That sphere, moreover, is not only superhuman but even superdivine-beyond the gods, their heavens, their delights, and their cosmic powers. “Humanity,” consequently, whether in the individual or in the collective aspect, can no longer be of concern to anyone seriously striving for perfection along the way of the ultimate Indian wisdom. Humanity and its problems belong to the philosophies of life: the philosophies of success (artha), pleasure (kama), and duty (dharma); these can be of no interest to one who has literally died to time-for whom life is death. “Let the dead bury their dead”:” that is the thought. This is something that makes it very difficult for us of the modem Christian West to appreciate and assimilate the traditional message of India.”

      • Rick, downloaded this Zimmer book and was much taken by Chap 5, titled “Brahman”.
        ——–
        “Power, the supreme aim and instrument of magic, was in fact the great and determinative element in all Vedic priestcraft. As we have seen, he who knows and can avail himself of the highest power in the universe is all-powerful himself. The power is to be found everywhere and assumes many forms, many manifestations. It abides with man—not in the outermost stratifications of his nature, but at the very core, in the innermost sanctum of his life. From there it wells up. It increases, floods into man’s body and brain. And it can be made to grow, so that it takes form and bursts into the mind as a vision, or to the tongue in the lasting form of the powerful magic spell, the potent stanza. The word brahman in the Vedic hymns simply means, in many cases, “this stanza, this verse, this line.” For example: “By this stanza (anena brahmaṇā) I make you free from disease.” 37
        ———-
        This was the impression I was trying to convey in my last comment to you on the Rigveda verse you referenced.

        I think I will investigate Zimmer a little more…thanks.

  4. Excellent sanctimonious stuff . . . the modern Christian west that stole others’ lands, killed off native inhabitants, enslaved robbed, murdered, pillaged, and still do to this day. And all supported by the church, in the name of humanity and virtue.

    Please, vedanta does not need lessons in virtue from moralising Christian philosophers.

    The only – only – virtue is the removal of one’s ego. From that alone, all virtue springs. Until you address the fundamental evil in man, everything he does will be corrupt.

  5. Zimmer had a lifelong interest in Ramana Maharshi and was very keen that Jung should call on the sage during his visit to India. However, Jung found himself unable to visit the sage. His explanation, Maharshi is of a type that always was and will be. Therefore, it was not necessary to seek him out. In India, he is merely the whitest spot on a white surface.

  6. So what?

    I just read Brunton’s “In search of secret India”, and it has a barely disguised colonial arrogance. As is evident from your passage, these guys were just interested in accessing mystical powers, becoming ‘supermen’; with intellectual posing and conceptualising for their western audience.

    JK would have taken them apart.

  7. BTW Shishya

    If these jokers don’t have the intellectual honesty and insight to see what the West has done in the rest of the world, and can pontificate on western virtue and values versus Vedanta, then what point is there in reading their intellectual puffery and mental masturbation on anything?

    • Dear Venkat, I am in partial agreement with you and think that the following extract from Rick’s citation of Zimmer either misses the point entirely, OR is offered as an apology…I tend to think that Zimmer was actually pointing out a shortcoming in the modern “Western” approach.
      ——
      “Humanity,” consequently, whether in the individual or in the collective aspect, can no longer be of concern to anyone seriously striving for perfection along the way of the ultimate Indian wisdom. Humanity and its problems belong to the philosophies of life: the philosophies of success (artha), pleasure (kama), and duty (dharma); these can be of no interest to one who has literally died to time-for whom life is death. “Let the dead bury their dead”:” that is the thought. This is something that makes it very difficult for us of the modem Christian West to appreciate and assimilate the traditional message of India.”
      ——
      In fact JK’s characterization of “political, economic, religious” activity as “not separate activities” but just expressions of a “unitary process” that will express itself in different directions, is at the heart of the matter.

      If one is solely concerned with that “unitary process” it might comes across as selfishness to a Western audience. But I think they also were well aware of the pride of self denial and asceticism.

      Shishya

  8. Shishya,

    It really is not that complicated; would-be philosophers – and traditional vedantists – make it so, to expound their erudition.

    BG 6.31/2:
    “That yogi, being established in unity, adores Me as existing in all things . . .
    O Arjuna, that yogi is considered best who judges what is happiness and sorrow in all beings by the same standard as he would apply to himself”.

    Unambiguous.

    JK, perhaps the best (accidental) commentator on Vedanta:

    “Goodness implies total abnegation of the self, because ‘the me’ is always separative.”

    “A petty mind may practise virtue, but it will still remain petty. Virtue is then an escape from its own pettiness, and the virtue it gathers will also be petty. If this pettiness is not understood, how can there be the experiencing of reality? How can a petty, virtuous mind be open to the immeasurable?”

    “Can we discard the morality of society which is really quite immoral? Its morality has become respectable, approved by religious sanctions; and the morality of counter-revolution also soon becomes as immoral and respectable as that of well-established society. This morality is to go to war, to kill, to be aggressive, to seek power, to give hate its place; it is all the cruelty and injustice of established authority. This is not moral . . . So we must begin to find out how deeply we have discarded the morality of authority, imitation, conformity and obedience. Isn’t fear the basis of our morality? Unless these questions are fundamentally answered for oneself one cannot know what it is to be truly virtuous. AS WE SAID, WITH WHAT EASE YOU COME OUT OF THIS HYPOCRISY IS OF THE GREATEST IMPORTANCE.”

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