Q.381 – Knowledge, belief and experience

Note: This discussion follows on from the last question on ‘Finding a Teacher’ (apart from the introductory paragraphs).

Many seekers think that the essence of enlightenment is ‘experience’; that they need to actually experience something for themselves before they can be regarded as enlightened. In line with this, they denigrate the notion that a teacher can convey whatever it is that the seeker needs by simply talking to them, answering questions and so on. Even worse, they feel, is the idea that enlightenment can be gained by reading a book!

Maybe the term ‘Self-inquiry’ is largely to blame for this misconception. Seekers attached to this idea think that subjecting their own experiences (perceptions, ideas, theories etc) to close examination is somehow the key.

Whatever is the case, such seekers are seriously confused and need to distinguish carefully between ‘experience’, ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’. Below I provide a question and answer discussion I had early last year with a reader on this general subject. But first I would like to give an example from my own experience, which (for me) provided a very clear distinction between these three. (And I refer to this example in the question and answer session.)

The experience occurred about 30 years ago. You will have to bear with me as it takes a little while (and two diagrams!) to explain.

knowledge diag1I used to attend philosophy lectures at a school called SES, which holds its talks in rented buildings scattered about the country. At this time, they were held in a house on a circular avenue as in the first image above. I always approached along the road at the top, turned left into the avenue and then clockwise to the school. On leaving, I always returned the same way – anti-clockwise, then right and right.

Then, one night, for some reason, I carried on in the same, clockwise direction and then turned left, and then right at the main road as usual. Except that I suddenly hit some traffic lights that had not been there before and I realized that I was somewhere completely different! I soon recognized where I was and took corrective action but I was completely mystified as to how I had got there. This was the ‘experience’ stage. I had the experience but missed the meaning, as T. S. Eliot puts it in ‘The Four Quartets’!

I puzzled over this for some days, wondering if I had had some sort of mental blackout or been so involved in thinking about the lecture that I hadn’t been paying attention and went the wrong way for some reason. But I did not really believe that; I believed that there had to be some simple explanation.

knowledge diag2And then, at some point, that explanation came to me and I knew beyond any doubt what must have happened, even though I had not looked at a map or spoken with anyone about it. The actual layout of the avenue had to be as shown in the second diagram. And so it was of course. But the point is that, when the answer came to me, it came as certainty, not as some working hypothesis or plausible explanation.


This is the certainty of knowledge rather than belief. All of the information has to be there in the mind. In this example, the data concerning starting point, end point and location of the school were all there; I just hadn’t seen the connection. The realization comes of itself when your mind is ready. You simply know that there is no other answer, even if you cannot look at a map to check your conclusion. If you have the belief (of the reality of non-duality) already, you have presumably had sufficient shravaNa. You simply need to give yourself more manana and nididhyAsana.

Knowledge, according to Western philosophy, occurs when you believe something and that belief is both justified (by experience and reason) and true. In order to become Self-realized or enlightened, you have to subject the ideas of Advaita to doubt and questioning and repetition and consideration etc until such time as your beliefs become knowledge.

The continuation of Q. 380 – Finding a teacher – now follows:

Q: I have read many books which of course all point in the same direction but describe the process of getting there in many different ways, what to avoid also seems to vary widely. I try to avoid those that frankly bitch about other processes and I still haven’t figured out what Jiddu Krishnamurti expects us to achieve; his process seems equivalent to Arthur Dent learning to fly.

I seem to have an affinity with Hinduism and have started reading the Bhaghavad Gita ‘as it is’ and a book on Advaita Vedanta I downloaded on my kindle.

I have a peculiar ‘accidental’ spiritual background so my development is erratic and I’m worried that I could very easily get in trouble again. Started out atheist then accidentally suffered precognition that terrified me, thought I was going to go insane. Had more precognition, nine years worth, went to spiritualists – no good, went to Protestants next door – no good. Have been looking for 10 years for explanation, haven’t found anything except Aldous Huxley in his Perennial Philosophy stating that these Siddhis are just a distraction. If it wasn’t for those Siddhis I would know a lot less than I do now though.

A: ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ is not Advaita but Dvaita. There are hundreds of translations/commentaries on the Gita and most cannot be recommended for someone beginning to find out about Advaita. What is the kindle Advaita book you are reading?

I think it is mainly the Yoga philosophers who address the question of siddhis but they are also dualistic. As you say, they are an unfortunate distraction for the most part.

Q: The Kindle book is called ‘A Guide to Hindu Spirituality’ by Arvind Sharma. I found it through ‘World Wisdom, The Library of Perennial Philosophy’. 

I don’t want a system that uses siddhis. I need someone who acknowledges the reality of them, in order to know how they operate and can deal with them. They hopefully know to differentiate between intentional and accidental psychic phenomena. Protestant Christians don’t seem to differentiate, which is why I’m avoiding them (not that I need much excuse). The intentional aspects are prone to ego and moral problems, therefore are distractions and harmful – I get that. The accidental are very confusing, longer lasting and much more powerful in effect than the intentional, but whether they are distractions or pointers is unclear at present. 

I’ve had more experiences than precognition and cumulatively I do feel manipulated or pushed towards something by something. The only thing I can accept (believe?) for certain is that the human subconscious has access to or is part of something that has its own consciousness. Whether this bigger consciousness is behind the manipulation I have no idea. I get the impression that the meaning/purpose of life is to achieve conscious awareness of the subconscious and all that goes with it. Sorry about the Jung type terminology.

A: According to Advaita, there is no ‘this consciousness’ and ‘that conscious’ or ‘larger consciousness’; there is only Consciousness. And you are that. Experiences are irrelevant; only knowledge matters. Advaita recognizes siddhis but has no interest in them at all; just ignore them, as they are experiences. If you are interested in finding out more about Advaita, I suggest reading my ‘Advaita Made Easy’. It is short, simple and cheap and will teach you the absolute basics. If, after that, you have questions or want to ask more, please get back to me.

Q: I bought and read your book today; it was similar in content to the other book I bought on Kindle.

Whatever I write below is only intended as logical intellectual type problems, like marking a philosophy essay. It’s not intended to be a criticism of you, your book or Advaita Vedanta, as it is in India. I do question your inadvertent western mentality that makes the same mistake that you yourself say:

“Modern western teachers are attempting to circumvent the introductory explanations and mental preparation and present the bottom line conclusions of Advaita. This is not possible and only leads to confusion.” (Accuracy is subject to me being able to read my own writing.)

Your book and every book in English (written in English or translated) does this exact same thing as far as I’m concerned. I understand what you have written, intellectually, I have been reading similar things for years, and it never gets any further than an intellectual knowledge.  Without real teachers it will probably never get any further either.

I do really have an atheist background, never have been Christian or anything else.  I haven’t been to Tibet, India, met the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa etc, have never been to weekly seminars with gurus. I do however “treat the search for the truth (as) being the driving force (of) my life”. My psychic experiences, though worthless to many, have led me to realise that reality isn’t what I believed/assumed it was.  As “only knowledge can remove ignorance”, my knowledge from experience, removed my atheist ignorance at least. And logically, my experiences couldn’t have happened if all humans etc weren’t interconnected in some fashion – “you and I are the same”.

“We are never asked to accept anything that is contrary to reason or to our own experience.” If experience is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter does it? For me, reincarnation and karma are contrary to reason and experience, but I’m happy to leave those alone.

I’m not in some big impatient rush to experience enlightenment. I think the slower the better. But if this ‘enlightenment’ isn’t an experience, are you suggesting that something just happens for some unknown reason, sans teacher? So I can continue reading and intellectually understanding and one day, it will sink in of its own accord? I’m differentiating between intellectual knowledge and a sort of instinctive knowledge from experience, like gnosis. I experienced absolute knowledge during my first precognition experience. (I might have the terminology wrong, but I received absolute knowledge that I would see someone, then half an hour later I did, that’s when I got the traumatic shock and feeling that I was about to go insane). I always assumed that enlightenment was some kind of gnosis/absolute knowledge, but without the trauma – hopefully.

Regarding the first paragraph above, there is another aspect of your Western mindset that is causing problems for me in that I still feel frustrated. You have taken on the western prejudice and assumptions regarding psychic phenomena and are grouping it all together, and have never investigated it for yourself, intellectually. I understand the prejudice but it is limiting. There is the feeling that Eastern religions have adapted their teachings to fit the Western mindset, make it acceptable and take out all the ‘superstitious mumbo jumbo’ and any negative aspects, make it intellectually appealing. It has succeeded; for me in particular it’s almost as useless as Christianity in effect, sans teachers of course.

A: Sorry you are feeling frustrated over this. If it is any consolation, traditional Advaita talks about the process taking many lifetimes, not just a few months or even years. (I entirely agree with your statement regarding reincarnation, however, although that is not in any way a condemnation of Advaita.)

Your initial point, actually misses the point, although I accept responsibility for this. My statement about circumvention refers to the Western style satsang and neo-advaita. My own approach is (intended to be) strictly in accord with traditional teaching.

But all that is beside the point, really. Your problem seems to be a belief that ‘enlightenment’ involves some sort of experience – a ‘sudden flash of light’ if you like. This is not the case. But you are right, it is more than what we usually call ‘intellectual understanding’. In fact, I think we often use that term when we DON’T really understand. “I understand intellectually, but…” It is a bit like the difference between belief and knowledge. I used an example from my own experience to illustrate this in answer to a question last year sometime, and I think this might help here.

Regarding psychic phenomena, I don’t think I have made any judgmental statements anywhere. I have just said that Advaita considers that they are irrelevant in a pursuit of Self-knowledge. In fact, it is more than that: they are likely to be a distraction and thus counter-productive.

As far as Eastern teaching adapting to a Western mindset, yes – I am consciously (and I dare say, unconsciously too) trying to do this. ‘Original’ traditional teaching of Advaita is totally scripture-based and heavily laced with Sanskrit. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to glean much from such an Indian teacher without significant Sanskrit background. There is also the cultural background – rituals etc. This is also taken for granted by most Indian teachers and the Western listener will understand very little. If you want the unadulterated version, you will have to go and live with an Indian family for some years first, as well as learning some Sanskrit!

Q: I have to admit that I’m confused, not just by you, I’ve been confused since the mid ’80s.

For most people there seems to be a gap between intellectual understanding and knowing. Do they close the gap by believing in stuff? If they do, could I suggest that the gap is wider when you experience absolute certainty that isn’t related to any prior belief?

This certainty convinced me that belief is bogus, because the certainty came without prior belief, therefore logically, belief is irrelevant as well as annoying.

Do we manufacture belief ourselves and hope we don’t go insane? I’ve come across this idea that belief is some great leap into the unknown, is that true? If it is true, then I’m risking more horrific experiences.

So what’s causing all my confusion and how am I supposed to bridge this gap?

You didn’t show any overt prejudice against psychic stuff, you just ignored it. I don’t mind so much if I can understand why, other than what you’ve said already which doesn’t explain much in particular.

I don’t think about enlightenment much really as it seems impossible, probably because I don’t understand what it is. I assumed it had some certainty/gnosis attached in some way, otherwise how would you know you had achieved it?

If I could understand what happened I would be happier, but that understanding seems to depend on me entirely and I don’t like that, but I’ve got used to being my own authority in a way. If following Advaita Vedanta depends on my own understanding to bridge the gap, I won’t like it much either, but I’ll do it if I have no other choice.

A: My apologies! I seem to have confused the issue by giving my pictorial example. I produced that originally to clarify the difference between belief and knowledge and I was trying to apply it to your problem of the difference between intellectual understanding and knowledge. They are not really the same. You will have encountered the terms shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. The first is what corresponds to intellectual understanding. You follow the arguments and understand what is being said – but you are not entirely convinced. This is where the second stage comes in – subjecting those ideas to doubt and questioning, and not being satisfied until all those doubts have been resolved. Once that occurs, you can call it enlightenment, but far better is simply self-knowledge. The third step is to go over it all again, talk and/or write and/or teach the material until that outlook is intrinsic to your life.

Faith is involved to the extent that you resolve to temporarily take on trust the things that the teacher tells you until such time as manana is finished. It goes without saying that you only give this trust to someone you have reason to believe is trustworthy.

I can understand that your psychic experiences have been a powerful influence in your life but you need to try to drop them. All experiences are irrelevant to Advaita, psychic or otherwise. They are all mithyA.

(My own views on this are also irrelevant but, because you ask, I used to be very interested. I have had a totally inexplicable incidence of precognition. But I have also read such books as ‘The Hundredth Monkey’ and it is difficult to ignore such persuasive argument.)

63 thoughts on “Q.381 – Knowledge, belief and experience

  1. “Maybe the term ‘Self-inquiry’ is largely to blame for this misconception. Seekers attached to this idea think that subjecting their own experiences (perceptions, ideas, theories etc) to close examination is somehow the key.”

    Ok. Let everyone live with their pet theories without any examination. Every street corner guru can come up with his own theory that we will also accept. Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy will have the same value as the rationalism of the Buddha, the Self inquiry of Ramana, the rigor of Krishnamurti. Never examine whether anything is true or not, just accept. Self inquiry is a misconception, it is really self expansion through our experiences and ideas that will lead us to enlightenment. Guaranteed. But no questions allowed.

  2. Dear Dennis,

    It looks to me that the real issue here to be focused and needs attention on priority is the over 35 years of “confusion” or absence of clarity in the mind (thought process) of the Questioner in his/her pursuit of Truth (Yes, with a capital T), a critical examination/evaluation of his/her psychic experiences (premonitions etc.) in relation to the inquiry s/he is on, distinguishing his / her expectations on what Reality should look/feel like vis a vis his experiential observations, the Advaita teaching s/he thinks he grokked vs. what the actual teaching says etc. etc.

    What is said and by whom and in what manner, books or Gurus or theories is not, IMHO, much relevant at this stage. The Questioner, the person, is of concern.

    Therefore, for any of the readers to get involved into this conversation, I feel it is necessary to know whether the issue is an ongoing one right now with the Questioner or it is just history being discussed at the moment. I would also like to know if the Questioner would be interested to or inclined to interact and participate in these discussions.


  3. Dennis,

    Can I just clarify – a physicist who knows beyond doubt that we are all made of the same stuff (sub-atomic particles, wavicles, whatever) that there is no difference in the absolute sense, except in the empirical world – would s/he be classified as a jnani by your definition? (OK, they may not call it consciousness but energy, but that’s just splitting hairs, or atoms more appropriately!). If so, we should focus on learning particle physics, to convince ourselves of non-duality – though one could probably do that with a more basic level of education.

    If they are not jnanis, what is the element of knowledge that a jnani has that a physicist doesn’t have?

    Einstein wrote the following, which probably does qualify him as a jnani?
    “A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. ”

    I’m fascinated by what you believe the discriminating factors of advaitic knowledge are that leads one to realisation.


  4. Venkat,
    “a physicist who knows beyond doubt that we are all made of the same stuff”. True, but this has two problems. Firstly, he is talking about the body. So this is valid only when there is body consciousness, ie in the waking state. Second, there is an assumed separation between the observer and the observed in any scientific analysis. Since you are well versed in Ramana and Krishnamurti, you know the answer to these questions.
    “If they are not jnanis, what is the element of knowledge that a jnani has that a physicist doesn’t have?”
    Again since you are familiar with Krishnamurti, thought is always limited, knowledge based on thought is always limited. Whether it is the knowledge of an individual, or scientific knowledge or the entire knowledge of humanity. The jnani is one who is not limited by thought. The physicist lives in the field of thought. David Bohm has discussed many of these issues with Krishnamurti that you have probably read. So there is no comparison between the jnani and others.

  5. “If they are not jnanis, what is the element of knowledge that a jnani has that a physicist doesn’t have?”

    According to Hindu belief, a jnani has the experience of himself as the Atman. It is a unified state where there is a shift of identity to a ‘True Self’, Atman.

    In Krishnamurtian terms, when there is a stillness of mind, the ‘Beloved’ makes its presence known.

    In both cases, we are still talking about Impermanence of all experience. Experience and consciousness are impermanent. Atman is impermanent. Neither is the Absolute Truth that has been pointed to which is not in the field of consciousness. What is in the field of consciousness is the experience of self on many levels. All knowing is an experience of self. Self cannot experience the unknown. If there is an Absolute Truth, it cannot be experienced by a self. Even the jnani must disappear along with all consciousness. What is left?

  6. Thanks twopaisa and anon.

    The dayananda school has asserted that self-realisation is actually just a knowledge in the mind of the truth of non-duality, as opposed to ending of knowledge / concepts, and going beyond the mind. This view is at odds with jk, ramana, nisargadatta and sankaracharyas of sringeri.

    So the question was meant to elucidate from Dennis what knowledge he believes constitutes “realisation”… And how this is different from a physicists knowledge of non-separation.

    Over to you Dennis!

    • Venkat, anybody can assert anything. Leave alone the charlatans. At least at some stage we have to see what really takes place in simple day to day events. Does knowledge of any scripture in the human mind prevent conflict, brutality, wars? How absurd to think that anybody is self realized merely by carrying a concept in his mind. Even at the micro level of a family, it does not work. Merely by repeating ‘we are one family’ does not prevent conflict among members. At the level of the individual, there are conflicting demands and pressures in the mind. Burdening the mind with an additional concept as knowledge only leads to conflict with other theories existing in the mind.

    • I don’t understand what you mean by ‘ending of knowledge/concepts’ or ‘going beyond the mind’. They would appear to have the same lack of meaning/plausibility as ‘merging with god’, ‘returning to the absolute’ and so on.

      Best wishes,

    • Dennis,
      You should consider a career in politics. Your response did not even attempt to answer my direct question!

      • Venkat,

        I will happily answer your question once I understand what it is you are saying!

        If terms are not defined and clear to those reading, there will be misunderstanding. This is the perennial complaint about satsang and neo teachers and the justification for using Sanskrit terms when they have no direct English equivalent.

        If we don’t do this, you end up saying one thing using your terminology and I end up saying something (apparently) different using mine – and never the twain shall meet!

        Best wishes,

  7. Hi Venkat,

    It seems to me that you are ascribing a certainty of knowledge to science (i.e., particle physics) that no scientist would actually agree with even in principle. Any quantum physicist who says, “I am absolutely certain that the universe is made up of particles that are non-separate from one another,” is more of a dogmatist than a proper scientist. Virtually all scientific knowledge is provisional by definition, and the nature of the scientific method is that any theory or hypothesis can be overturned by new facts or evidence. Our current understanding of physics is limited to the less than 5% of baryonic (ordinary) matter that is actually visible to our instrumentation, with the remaining 95% being attributed to “dark matter,” and “dark energy.” It may be that the recently confirmed Higgs boson has something to do with dark matter, but no reputable physicist would say they have any certainty at all as to what constitutes these mysterious entities. Theories and speculation, yes, certainty no. So you cannot compare a physicist’s alleged “certainty of non-separation,” which is basically limited to quantum entanglement of linked particle pairs within the 5% of the Universe that is observable, with the certainty of Self-Knowledge as described in the Upanishads. Ask a physicist whether non-separation also applies with the particles that make up dark matter and/or dark energy and the answer will be, “I have no idea.”


  8. Venkat said, “The dayananda school has asserted that self-realisation is actually just a knowledge in the mind of the truth of non-duality, as opposed to ending of knowledge / concepts, and going beyond the mind. This view is at odds with jk, ramana, nisargadatta and sankaracharyas of sringeri.”

    Maybe you could elucidate what the difference is between Dayananda’s view and JK’s? How do they differ?

    Concepts like Self Realization are loaded with misunderstandings. I guess you believe that Self realization is the end of knowledge/concepts, and mind? I wouldn’t agree with this. In fact, I would remind anyone that you don’t have the power to end knowledge/concepts, and mind as this ‘goal’ in itself misses the point. Every experience you have is within consciousness and self is there to experience it. Granted, there are much deeper experiences that one can have than just the mere content of thought and concepts, but the point is mind is still present in Self Realization. What is important to always keep in mind is the inability of mind to transcend itself and escape its present experience. This alone keeps you in the present moment and helps you live a more balanced life and neutralizes the desire for something else, the other, more.

  9. Hi Charles, I think you are getting caught in the minutia in refuting my statement, rather than seeing the broad brush strokes of my point – which is that any sensible person can see that the stuff of which we and the world are made is the same – as in the oft-used vedantic analogy of gold in ornaments. And as demonstrated by Einstein’s statement. Belief in the upanishads is no more or less dogmatic than scientific hypotheses.

    As to scientists saying “I have no idea” – most jnanis would concur – that of the absolute, nothing can be known.


    Dayananda et al basically assert that through scriptural study, taught through a competent teacher, you will acquire the intellectual conviction that you are not a body, but you are the witnessing consciousness. Hence there is no ending of the ego; you simply have the intellectual knowledge that the ego is not real, and that there is no separation from the world/Brahman. And that is what they say jnana is.

    The crux of this is addressed by Ramana:
    “The Liberated one has neither knowledge of difference, nor knowledge of non-difference. The NON-ARISING of knowledge of difference is referred to by the wise as ‘knowledge of non-difference’.

    i.e. the absence of the concept of presence, rather than the presence of the concept of absence.

    “I am in that state where there is total absence of any concept of presence or absence. You are also in that state, but you don’t know it.”
    “You must come to a state of ‘I have not understood anything’. You must go beyond this understanding stage, come to a stage beyond . . . Whatever you have tried to understand during your spiritual search will prove false. Therefore nothing is to be understood. Deliberate on this”

    Hence my question to Dennis was meant to understand what is the Dayananda view of the sine qua non of advaitic jnana, as compared to the scientific or even common-sense understanding of non-separation, as reflected in say the Einstein quote. (To be clear, I am not trying to debate at this stage the merits or not of this view, just to understand what the necessary and sufficient bits of knowledge are that constitute jnana in their opinion, and how it differs from or adds to Einstein’s statement.)

    • Hi Venkat,

      I guess I wasn’t clear enough, sorry. I see that the discussion has moved forward, but let me clarify that I wasn’t trying to respond at all to your broad point. I was only trying to explain that you were comparing apples to oranges in your attempt to equate “knowledge” in the context of science, with “knowledge” in the context of Advaita. You were speaking in terms of scientists having “no doubt” about non-separation, and I am saying they most definitely have doubts. All scientific knowledge is based on probabilities, not certainties.


  10. Venkat,

    I think the issue relates to your association of the adjective ‘intellectual’ with the noun ‘knowledge’. Let me ask you: is your ‘knowledge’ that you exist ‘intellectual’?


    • Sorry to interfere in your discussion.
      “I don’t understand what you mean by ‘ending of knowledge/concepts’ or ‘going beyond the mind’. They would appear to have the same lack of meaning/plausibility as ‘merging with god’, ‘returning to the absolute’ and so on.”

      “If we don’t do this, you end up saying one thing using your terminology and I end up saying something (apparently) different using mine – and never the twain shall meet!”

      Krishnamurti constantly warned ‘the word is not the thing, the description is not the described’. So it does not matter whether Dennis calls this state as ‘merging with god’ and Venkat calls it ‘beyond mind’. The mind as we know it now (in the current unrealized state) does not exist in the jnani. Again you can call it ‘no mind’, ‘beyond mind’, ‘new mind’ or anything else. A jnani can talk about this state in any language be it English, Sanskrit, Swahili or sign language. Hope this academic question has been answered. Kindly ignore if this did not help.

  11. If it helps, A few Fly-on-the-Wall observations:

    Quoting verbatim from online source:

    1. While Chinmayananda explicitly said that we must directly experience the Self, which can be found in all his textual and video commentaries, Dayananda disagreed and said that liberation is only cognitive — merely listening to scriptures gives you direct knowledge and liberation is a result of assimilating this knowledge.

    2. [ ] the aim of Advaita sadhana is to purify the mind (chitta shuddi) and as this is the aim of Yoga as well, Shankara directly prescribes Yoga for this purpose.
    Dayananda teaches the complete opposite on Yoga. In fact in his interviews he is notorious for making fun of yoga and even meditation.

    3. According to Dayananda, Advaita is nothing more than an art of living(or science of life) where we live with the understanding of “Tat Tvam Asi” that all is Brahman. He cites in support of this sruti, “Knower of Brahman becomes Brahman” But he conveniantly misinterprets the meaning of knowledge in Advaita; it is not an ordinary accumulation and assimilation of book knowledge, it is immediate self-knowledge(aparoksha jnana) which is a mystical experience.

    4. Another corruption Dayananda introduces is to teach that even liberated beings(jivanmuktas) still have desires, anger, worries, anxieties, vasanas etc which is the total oppostite of what traditional Advaita teaches. According to which, a liberated being is absolutely free of all desires etc.

    5. Dayananda claims to already be liberated, many of his followers also claim the same, yet at the same time they also claim they get angry etc — It is the the classic case of having ones cake and eating it at the same time.


    • Hi Ramesam,

      Regarding your point 5, it’s well known that Nisargadatta Maharaj had quite a temper and often displayed flashes of anger. David Godman discussed this in an interview, and Ramesh Balsekar also referred to it. Based on such eyewitness accounts, there seems little question that Maharaj got angry from time to time. In your view, does this mean he was not liberated?


      • Hi Charles,

        Please draw your own conclusion.


        [P.S: If you insist, I will have to give a 1 Hr lecture from various angles and I am certain you will be dead-bored as you will still not be able to find the answer at the end of the hour!]

        • Hi Ramesam,

          My own conclusion is yes, Maharaj was a jnani, and also that yes, he got angry from time to time. I do not see these as mutually exclusive. But no, I won’t insist, because I’m finding the whole discussion totally ironic anyway. Clearly, anyone calling himself jnani cannot actually be a jnani, since supposedly a jnani sees no distinctions and knows beyond all doubt that all is the Self. Yet here we are, setting the jnani on a pedestal, conferring special status, and thereby applying a dualistic template that no true jnani would support or endorse. Pretty funny, actually!


          • Charles,

            Not interested in debating about this or that person being a jnani. But your statement “Clearly, anyone calling himself jnani cannot actually be a jnani,” is not only itself a prescription but is also factually incorrect with at least two people accepted as Jnanis/liberated/self realized/etc by many on this forum. Both Ramana and Krishnamurti have made statements to this effect. So it may be best to be free of any conclusion about Jnanis.

            • Twopaisa,

              I have never read Krishnamurti, so have no opinion at all regarding him. I’ve read most everything translated into English that was written by Sri Ramana Maharshi though, including Talks and Day by Day, etc.. Did he actually refer to himself as jnani, liberated, having achieved moksha? I think pretty much every time this question was directed at him, his response was something along the lines of, “Who is asking the question?” 🙂 If Ramana did make such a claim directly, I’m sure I will be corrected in short order with a quotation by one of the other posters! Anyway, my point was only that someone thinking “I am a jnani” is making a dualistic distinction no actual jnani would make.


              • Charles,

                If you have Talks with RM by Venkatramiah, you will find at least two instances. In one, he refers to himself as Sadguru. Also it is may be a ‘claim’ only in our eyes. Best to move on instead of these endless speculations about what a jnani must or must not say or do. Let us face the fact that we are not in a position to make any assertions on Jnanis.

                • Twopaisa,

                  The version of Talks that I have is the Inner Directions edition printed in 2001. I’m not sure if it is complete or abridged. The index carries one reference to Sadguru, p. 331-332. In that conversation, Ramana does not actually refer to himself as Sadguru. What he says is, “The Sadguru is within.” He does not say, “I am Sadguru.” I know you want to move on, but if you have those other references handy, it would be helpful to compare them to this section.


            • Hi Twopaisa,

              As we all know, “anyone calling himself a jnani cannot actually be a jnani” is a quote from kena upanishad and perhaps Lao Tze too said so. But, at the same time, what would be a jnAni look like is a legit question of a seeker as we can see in scriptures also.

              The scriptures (e.g. BG, Yogavasishta, many prakarana granthas) come up with suggestive behavioral traits of a jnAni. But all these ‘indicartors’ are presented for one’s own self-appraisal to aid the seeker in his/her advancement but not for assessing /evaluating another man. At the same time, I would also say that because a seeker is supposed to take guidance from a “brahmaniSTha,” it may not be a crime to ask if one is a jnAni if that person happens to be a self-proclaimed guru.


              • Ramesam,

                First realize that this topic cannot have a definitive answer. Suppose we take Lao Tzu or the person who wrote the Upanishad at face value, how do we know that person is a jnani? If he is not, the statement is only conjecture. If we believe he is a jnani, then it only reflects our own beliefs, nothing more. It is for a good reason that people like Ramana and Krishnamurti considered such issues as a hinderance and told questioners to keep away from such things. Related to an earlier post, this is again striving to understand stillness, stage 2 activity. I would like to move on.

      • Charles,

        Perhaps this view of a liberated man being sort of passive and lifeless is more iconic than real. The ideas that are handed down to us of what it is to be a ‘jnani’ are quite archaic. It is part of the overall desire to duplicate an image that is in all of our consciousness. It is an archetype, not meaningful in itself. The Ch’an and Zen traditions are abundant with illustrations of intense, vital people. For some reason, the Indian mind has drawn up this benign image of a sage.

        • Anonymous,

          Good points, thanks. Zen Masters like Bodidharma did seem to have a certain vitality about them. However, I think Nisargadatta Maharaj would be a good counter-example of a very kinetic sage, one who lived in a busy city rather than a cave, and one who actively went about his business. He was about as “Indian” as modern sages come, in terms of cultural heritage, so we have to allow for exceptions and not generalize too broadly. But I think you’re right that there can be a desire to duplicate the image we have of the jnani, in whatever mold or example we are most drawn to. The danger is that the “description becomes prescription,” with the seeker attempting to duplicate the “enlightenment story” of the teacher in their own lives.

          • Hi Charles,

            On one hand we have the teaching that everyone is already free, no moksha, nor any seeker running after for liberation.

            At the same time we have the exhortation that the purport of all upanishadic teaching is that every human should try to attain liberation.

            One organized group will not accept a Ramana or a Nisargadatta as a Jivnmukta; they keep their own Master on a pedestal and call him as liberated. He likes people should wash his feet and pay him for that.

            Over a decade ego, I tried to figure out if we can find any identifiable characteristics that can distinguish a ‘Liberated individual’ from an unliberated one. I listed them in a tabular form at the end of the article here:

            So that we can be non-subjective, I tried to see if some “Markers” can be established through brain scans and I identified about ten parameters which can be used (see here:
            http://www.nondualitymagazine.org/nondualitymagazine.4/nonduality_magazine.4.jivanmuktarevised_27_apr_2011.htm ).

            I wish some one would take up a rigorous research on these things.

            Perhaps I should add, in closing, that multiple parameters may have to be used and one may not be able to distinguish a Jivanmukta based on a ‘single’ criterion (e.g. as you posed in your first question). If one uses a number of criteria, what you say about Nisargadatta Maharaj can be true.


            • Thanks, Ramesam. I read both of your excellent articles a while back. I agree it would be valuable research, although there would be numerous methodological challenges involved. That said, I’m rather skeptical of the “neural correlates of consciousness” theory to begin with, since it is rooted in the materialist assumption of brain-mind identity.


              • Many Thanks Charles for your kind observations. Let me please add that the articles need to be updated with the latest findings in Neuroscience. If we keep those developments in mind, I feel my plea only gets strengthened. What is important is not the issue of identity of brain-mind or which causes which. The point on which my argument is based on is that the brain does carry a ” detectable foot-print” of the changes. I admit a lot of problems like calibration of the initial conditions, standardization of procedures, benchmarking, validation etc. are involved.


          • Nisargadatta is a good example as you point out. My own personal experience of U.G. is another. He could rant and rave and the next moment it was gone. What I noticed was the inability to tolerate ‘untruths’, ideas, concepts, when trying to converse with him. I see the same thing when I read the conversations of Maharaj. He doesn’t tolerate any speculation.

  12. Thank you Ramesam and Venkat for elaborating the views of Dayananda. Not knowing anything about Dayananda, I can see why some of the posters take offense with his approach.

    The danger is following anyone’s words and trying to duplicate what they are saying. You only have your own experience which is unlike anyone else’s. The moment you entertain anything in your mind, is the moment you lose your sense of being which is essential to live a life fully. Your own sense of being is what helps to clarify all experience. There is no way to bypass this and expect to arrive in Nirvana, Brahman, or anywhere else for that matter. This very body is the mystery. The mystery is not elsewhere, written in scriptures and commentaries or your own mind. Trying to figure it out has nothing to do with your own being. It’s a colossal waste of energy. This is what you have to come to terms with.

  13. Ramesam,

    You really cannot make such statements, justifying them only with the words “Quoting verbatim from online source”. I’m sure we can all find online sources that make the most obviously ridiculous statements. People who are already prejudiced easily fall into the trap of using such ‘online sources’ to justify their erroneous beliefs.

    If you wish to stand by your sources, then please a) given them a name and b) discover and include the actual references stated by this person to statements made by Swami Dayananda and c) give the scriptural references in which those statements of Swami Dayananda are contradicted.

    If you are unable to do this, then I suggest you retract your post as defamatory and unjustifiable. It is one thing to have your own private opinion of a teacher’s worth but quite another to use unsupported claims to spread that opinion to others.

    • 1. MY POSITION:

      My own position with respect to the theme of this thread was clearly expressed by me in the Post of Nov 09, 2015.

      I said: “It looks to me that the real issue here to be focused and needs attention on priority is the over 35 years of “confusion” or absence of clarity in the mind (thought process) of the Questioner …… What is said and by whom and in what manner, books or Gurus or theories is not, IMHO, much relevant at this stage. The Questioner, the person, is of concern.”

      As you know, there was no response to the point made by me. However, the discussions later on took a turn to the way of how the philosophical “understanding” of Non-dual realization can be articulated.


      There are broadly two approaches, in my view, that one may choose to adopt in contesting an argument placed on the table. For convenience, I shall call one as the ‘Path of Bhashyakara’ and the other as the ‘Path of Indignation.’

      In the first method, an argument on the table is taken as that of the pUrva paxin. The Bhashyakara goes about directly answering the point. He will not take offence and would provide an authentic response citing how the statements of the pUrva paxin stand contradicted “by providing the actual references, unambiguously spelling out the stand taken etc.” He is not concerned where the viewpoint originated from who was the spokesperson etc.

      In the second method, the argument is hedged. The Discussant goes behind technicalities, invokes parliamentary niceties or assumes a high moral ground. A clear and direct answer is avoided.
      It is easy to see which method helps in advancing the seeker in his/her inquiry.


      Obviously, they are not mine; I have no interest to support or condemn them. But they are not insignificant ramblings.

      Moreover, the important point is that even if they are banned or deleted from this web site as blasphemy, they will not and cannot be erased from cyberspace. Anyone googling those statements or searching with a couple of keywords can easily find them on the internet. So their source is neither a secret nor is it inaccessible in the present day of Information spread.

      Who made those statements, how qualified was that person etc. etc. were not of interest to me, though the person making them claims to have spent a decade in some Ashram and quite knowledgeable. My interest was to know how they were proved to be incorrect and unfounded.

      I patiently ploughed through a bundle of comments that were posted by others following those statements which contained many more historical details.

      But what surprised me was that almost all took the easy Path of ‘expressing Indignation’ without contradicting with the actual citations, references or spelling out clearly the stand of the Swami D. I copied them here to see if we get a more appropriate response. Alas, there is no better luck here.

      Establishing them “as untrue” with proper citations etc. once for all on the internet corrects the picture. Any search on the keywords as above will then show up the correct position also to the public.


      I shall cite here just a couple of scriptural references to illustrate the position that tradition takes with respect to embodiment, desire etc. after Self-realization (I know you are more aware of these than me):

      (i) Shankara in his commentary on the sUtra, तत्तु समन्वयात् (I-1-iv) defines liberation as freedom from embodiment. He adds further that the unending cycle of samsAra is nothing but embodiment drawing strength from the shruti statement:
      न वै सशरीरस्य सतः प्रियाप्रिययोरपहतिरस्त्यशरीरं वाव सन्तं न प्रियाप्रिये स्पृशतः — chAndogyOpanishad, VIII-12-i
      (Meaning: Surely, there is no cessation of pleasure and pain for one who is embodied. But pleasure and pain do not indeed touch one who is bodiless).

      A jIvanmukta, by definition, is free from experiencing the effects of all actions – be they pleasant or unpleasant. There are no rejectables or acceptable for him and he welcomes with equanimity everything as it happens without hope or hindrance. Therefore, jIvanmukti is in essence disembodiment (asharIratvam).

      (ii) Brihadaranyaka IV-iv-6: Thus does the man who desires (transmigrate). But the man who does not desire (never transmigrates). Of him who is without desires, who is free from desires, the objects of whose desire have been attained, and to whom all objects of desire are but the Self – the organs do not depart. Being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman.

      (iii) Brihadaranyaka IV-iv-7: Regarding this there is this pithy verse: ‘When all the desires that dwell in his heart (mind) are gone, then he, having been mortal, becomes immortal, and attains Brahman in this very body’. Just as the lifeless Slough of a snake is cast off and lies in the ant-hill, so does this body lie. Then the self becomes disembodied and immortal, (becomes) the (Supreme Self), Brahman.


  14. Thank you Ramesam, twopaisa and anon for your helpful, clarifying comments.

    I think it is important to address Dennis’ assertion in his original post, which he later concludes is strictly in accord with ‘traditional’ advaita:

    “Many seekers think that the essence of enlightenment is ‘experience’; that they need to actually experience something for themselves before they can be regarded as enlightened. In line with this, they denigrate the notion that a teacher can convey whatever it is that the seeker needs by simply talking to them, answering questions and so on. Even worse, they feel, is the idea that enlightenment can be gained by reading a book!
    Maybe the term ‘Self-inquiry’ is largely to blame for this misconception. Seekers attached to this idea think that subjecting their own experiences (perceptions, ideas, theories etc) to close examination is somehow the key.
    Whatever is the case, such seekers are seriously confused and need to distinguish carefully between ‘experience’, ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’.”

    Dennis goes on to say that intellectual understanding becomes self-knowledge when you subject any doubts you may have to repeated questioning – presumably through thinking through logically, questioning your teacher, re-reading scriptures. He has also stated elsewhere that atma vichara is not meant to be self-enquiry but scriptural enquiry.

    As Ramesam has kindly pointed out, this is very much in accord with Dayananda’s teaching. However, it would be doing advaita – and readers of this website – a dis-service to call Dayananda’s interpretion “traditional”. It is an interpretation, but there are others, arguably far more traditional.

    As Ramesam points out, Chinmayanda’s own teacher emphasised the direct experience of the Self. As have Vasistha, Ramakrishna, Ramana, Atmananda, JK, Nisargadatta and the Sankaracharyas of Sringeri. Further, here is just one example of what Sankara clearly meant by jnana, taken from Sankara’s beautiful commentary on Brhadaranyaka Upanishad II.iv.12 (from Sw Madhavananda’s translation):

    “That separate existence of yours, which has sprung up from the delusion engendered by contact with the limiting adjuncts of the body and organs, enters its cause, the great Reality, the Supreme Self, which stands for the ocean . . . When that separate existence has entered and merged in its cause, in other words, when the differences created by ignorance are gone, the universe becomes one without a second.”
    “These elements, transformed into the body, organs and sense-objects, from which the self comes out as an individual . . . are merged like rivers in the ocean, by the realisation of Brahman through the instruction of the scriptures and the teacher, and are destroyed. And when they are destroyed like the foams and bubbles of water, this individualised existence too is destroyed with them . . . After attaining (this oneness) the self, freed from the body and organs, has no more particular consciousness . . . How can the knower of Brahman, who is established in his nature as Pure Intelligence, possibly have any such particular consciousness? Even when a man is in the body, particular consciousness is sometimes impossible (e.g. as in deep sleep); so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs? So said Yajnavalkya – propounded this philosophy of the highest truth to his wife, Maitreyi”

    Finally, if one is to accept the Dayananda interpretation that jnana is simply a cognitive knowledge, then it means that Vasistha, Ramana, Chinmayananda et al were wrong in their core teaching. But that raises the question as to whether they were charlatans or just misguided by some mystical experiences that they had, and became confused as to what self-realisation is? Or, had they discovered / experienced something that is ineffable as a result of a subsidence of their ego / mind? Surely, that must be an important point to clarify for any seeker of advaitic truth? [Though confusingly, Dayananda’s school seem to be quite happy to provide commentaries on Ramana’s teaching (as pointed out in previous discussions)].

    So a plea to Dennis – to recognise that Dayananda’s interpretation is not the only traditional or authoritative teaching – however successful their growth strategy may have been in attracting students.

    • Venkat,

      Intellectual knowledge being based on memory and thought is always rooted in the past. It has no existence in the present and is only given continuity in the present by the thinking process. Therefore, intellectual knowledge cannot become or evolve into anything. Let us leave it there and not get into a discussion of personalities even though they may be peddling obviously bogus theories. As indeed most of them do. Elsewhere I had pointed out blatant distortions of Ramana’s teachings by Dayananda. The last thing we need is to get into an argument about ‘my guru is better than your guru’. At an absolute level, theories are only theories. Whether right or wrong, logical or illogical they are not going to help in realization. From that standpoint there is no difference between a ‘correct’ interpretation and a ‘wrong’ interpretation. This has been well articulated by Krishnamurti and Ramana and I am sure you are familiar with it. Let us move on.

      • None of you has yet explained how ‘experience’ could bring enlightenment. People claim to have experiences of seeing angels, speaking to God or dead relatives. There is no reasoning involved in believing any of this stuff; it is entirely faith from start to end. It depends upon how you look at it. As I have said elsewhere, how does ‘speaking to god in a dream’ differ from ‘having a dream about god’?

        The claim that ‘enlightenment’ is gained from listening to a teacher, asking questions to remove doubt, reflecting on what is learned is ‘reasonable’. It can be explained stepwise as follows:

        1. There is only brahman.
        2. I am brahman.
        3. I am already free (mokSha).
        4. Clearly (since I am already free) any ‘experience’ that I have (past, present or future) must be one of freedom.
        5. So what is the problem?
        6. I do not know that I am free.
        7. Since all experiences are had by someone who is already free, how can any new experience make me free?
        8. Even if this were possible, it would not be the experience per se that had the effect but the Self- knowledge that the experience gave me.
        9. If it were the experience that equates to freedom, then that freedom would disappear as soon as the experience ended. Experiences end; knowledge doesn’t.

        I could represent all of the above more coherently if I had time, but are you able to present a similar series of reasoned steps to explain how enlightenment is gained from an experience?

        • Dear Dennis,

          1. “The claim that ‘enlightenment’ is gained from listening to a teacher, asking questions to remove doubt, reflecting on what is learned is ‘reasonable’.”

          When you say as above, are you not essentially paraphrasing the vivaraNa position? The classical discussions on vivaraNa vs. bhAmati are too well-known to repeat here regarding whether mere “listening to” will trigger Self-realization and I do not think you would want that now.

          2. Regarding the point made by you at # 9 in your Comment:

          You may recall that we discussed the importance of experience a few months back. Though the word “experience” is used as a shortcut (under the presumption that it is known to all), the meaning has to be contextually understood as either (i) objective experience (where the tripuTi is still operative and the ‘knowledge’ (lower case ‘k’) generated being vRitti janita jnAnaM) or (ii) immediated experience (where there is no medium through which Self Knowledge (with capital “K”) is realized.

          Examples for the former are “I see a tree; I know AV is a good site.” This is memory (hence mind-based), accumulative, a function of time.

          There is only one example for the latter. If one asks himself/herself the question, “Am I aware?,” using thought (mind) or any means (pramANa), a genuine answer can never be obtained. In fact, thought may lead up to a point and end after that like the moth ends when it touches the flame. “tripuTi” is inoperative, subject-object dissolve and whatever IS at that moment, It is time-space invariant. This Knowledge is ever fresh and non-accumulative.


        • Dennis,

          I think you are unclear about words and their usage. I had mentioned this in my earlier reply but apparently not well enough.

          When we say experience, we mean to say ‘I experience’, or ‘my experience’. But when Krishnamurti and Ramana use the word ‘experience’, they are talking about experience without an experiencer. There is no I or me in the experience. The I is the past or the ego who/which is the experiencer in our case. So the same word(experience) is used to convey two entirely different meanings. For us, our ego has/accumulates experiences. Not for the jnanis.

  15. Twopaisa

    I agree, and I’m trying not to make this about personalities – apologies if it comes across this way. However, this is a site that promotes understanding of advaita, so it is important for users to have a rationale, dispassionate understanding of the different perspectives / interpretations, rather than being told there is only one interpretation that is in accord with traditional teaching.

    Happy to move on.


  16. “Intellectual knowledge being based on memory and thought is always rooted in the past. It has no existence in the present and is only given continuity in the present by the thinking process. Therefore, intellectual knowledge cannot become or evolve into anything. ”


    You will have to explain what you are trying to say here. Is not ‘thought’ the past tense of ‘think’? Thinking is in the present, thought is in the past. When I tell you something, the knowledge that arises in your mind as a result of what I have explained does so in the present. If I tell you I have just heard that a bomb is going to be dropped on your house, you hear it in the present. Hopefully, it evolves into your leaving the house at some point in the near future!


    • Dennis,

      Thought, process of thinking, is all rooted in the past. All thought/thinking is based on memory. Memory is the past. What is not clear about this? This is true of the thinking process in the human brain and applies to all. Even in your example, I must understand the language you speak when you warn me. If I didn’t know English (learnt it previously in the past), I will not be able to understand what you are saying. I will be unable to think of the consequences. We repeat Advaita here because we have read about it in the past. To recognize my friend by name, I must have seen him earlier and recorded it in my memory. The word recognize itself is re – cognize, which means to see again. The process of naming any object itself is based on thought, the past memory.

      Now let me go further. How does this relate to the grip of desire/fear in our lives? Desire means wanting something in the future. An experience that I had earlier (stored in the brain as memory) which I want repeated. Be it a particular dish I ate earlier, or a particular object I saw, or sex or anything else. So it is the reaction of past memory in the present. Likewise, fear means wanting to avoid an unpleasant experience in the future. Again the more my mind operates/thinks on it, the more fearful I become. In extreme cases leading to paranoia.

      Both desire and fear mean incessant thinking, that is mental activity. It does not matter what we think about. So long as there is such mental activity, there can be no stillness. Hence there is no possibility of liberation/realization or whatever you want to call it.

  17. The sense I get from many of you trying to make a clear statement about experience, mind, and ‘enlightenment’, is wrought with false claims, beliefs, and uninspected desires.

    If suffering (craving) is the basis of all efforts to be free of it, you don’t tell someone that there is only Brahman and expect any change in that person. You have to begin with what a person is experiencing, presently.

    Conceptual terms like enlightenment, realization/liberation, etc., are also not meaningful for anyone who suffers.

    Stillness is not something that should be striven for. This involves a manipulation of mind and is a nice trick to fool oneself with. What is important is to see how you have fooled yourself within your own experience with all the beliefs, knowledge, and analysis that have been fed to you. When you begin to see that you have been fooled, you begin to stop fooling yourself and are left with what is, or what you are. Without this fundamental ‘experience’, you are punching your way into more suffering, more problems, never coming to terms with your own pscyhology and behavior.

    • “Stillness is not something that should be striven for”.

      In studying the above statement, there is another way to look at stillness/liberation.

      1. Striving for stillness is an inherent contradiction.
      2. Yet this contradiction is understood only intellectually by the mind. So Striving continues. And mind continues to live in contradiction.
      3. All efforts to be free of the contradiction is only more striving.
      4. The nature of the mind is contradiction. Mind cannot end contradiction through its own effort and volition.
      5. If mind has actually reached thus far (by realizing all of the above completely) and all its efforts have failed to resolve the contradiction, utter helplessness is felt.
      6. Utter Helplessness results in ending of all effort for stillness.
      7. Helplessness and the complete ending of effort results in true surrender. Grace and liberation.

      These are not rigid steps or stages but something everyone must transcend. Each person can himself find out where he is living currently (FWIW, I am in 2 and 3. 4 through 7 are my intellectual understanding only).

      Please ignore if this is not relevant or useful to you. But it might be used in understanding where we actually stand in daily living.

  18. Two Paisa,

    Not to criticize what you have said which I think is very realistic, but I wonder how you could even postulate what would come after helplessness if you are indeed at level 2 or 3? At this point, how would you know about surrender/Grace and liberation if they are not more conceptual theories which you have dismissed earlier? Isn’t this something you’ve read about and are trying to duplicate? Then you are also arguing for surrender, grace, and liberation, as an experience that happens to YOU.

    This is what the Hindus think. It is not what some others believe.

    • “At this point, how would you know about surrender/Grace and liberation if they are not more conceptual theories which you have dismissed earlier? “.

      I have never dismissed rigorous intellectual understanding as entirely worthless. That is merely a reaction of the mind as well. (I prefer to call it reaction rather than a vasana). But intellectual understanding however logical and rigorous is certainly not freedom from the self (again I prefer the word freedom to moksha or realization).

      Ramana taught self enquiry (who am I?). Many asked him about japa, for example. They said they found self enquiry very difficult. He gave them his consent. So they did japa but never disputed self enquiry as his teaching. They continued reading and listening about self enquiry. Even though it was not practiced in their lives they had a sound intellectual understanding of it. This is the situation for almost all of us. It is merely a reaction to say ‘it is the ultimate’ or to say ‘it is worthless’.

      My understanding of Christianity and Islam is limited. So I could be wrong. But the Lord’s prayer speaks of Thy Will, and Islam also has the concept of surrender.

      • I think you missed my point. I was asking if you claimed to be in your #2 or #3 position, how would you know anything about grace or liberation other than by hearing or reading about it? It is not your experience so why bring it up? Is it not another desire that you are still hoping for? This is all in keeping with what you said above.

        I am not against self enquiry or intellectual understanding. I am pointing out the impossibility of knowing anything about grace and liberation in your above schematic of your ‘Path’, which sounds very JKish. I wish you good luck with it.

        • “I was asking if you claimed to be in your #2 or #3 position, how would you know anything about grace or liberation other than by hearing or reading about it? It is not your experience so why bring it up? “.

          Obviously I did not make it clear enough. I gave the example of people practicing japa even though they had intellectually understood self enquiry. Simply because they do japa it does not mean they should not talk about or discuss self enquiry. Or deny self enquiry.

          Cannot be more clear. Sorry.

  19. I’m afraid I don’t really have time for all this – visitors arriving in the next hour. I was rather hoping that others might join in to help in refuting all these attacks!

    Just a few brief points I can pick up on:

    Ramesam: I did not suggest that ‘mere “listening to” will trigger Self-realization’; I gave an English ‘translation’ of manana and nididhyAsana also. If I ask ‘am I conscious’, I can answer with total certainty ‘yes’. If I wasn’t conscious, I could not even ask the question!

    Your point about bhAshykAra versus indignation is well made but surely the onus is on anyone wishing to condemn Swami D for his teaching methods to quote examples etc. Why should it be on those defending to find contrary example? Certainly no one ought to listen to such inflammatory statements without concrete supporting evidence. I suggest that the statements are either misrepresentations or misunderstandings of Swami D’s actual position.

    Liberation is freedom from embodiment in the future (i.e. after death of the current body). We could no doubt argue about this for some time but I do not intend to do so. Clearly the body does not disappear on gaining Self-knowledge and clearly the mind remains associated with that body. The real Self was never associated with it in the first place.

    Twopaisa: I don’t disagree with most of what you say regarding desire and fear but do dispute that they entail ‘incessant’ thinking. Other practices such as meditation give significan freedom from them for a time. Hence the required qualification of at least some sAdhana chatuShTAya sampatti.

    “But when Krishnamurti and Ramana use the word ‘experience’, they are talking about experience without an experiencer.” If this were the case, then they would be making meaningless statements. Just as you cannot have a thought without a thinker, you cannot have an experience without an experiencer. This is misuse of English and does not need to invoke Advaita.

    I don’t recognize what you are saying about ‘striving, contradiction, helplessness, surrender, grace, liberation’ as anything to do with Advaita.

    Apologies for briefness!


    • Dennis,
      “Other practices such as meditation give significan freedom from them for a time.”

      True. But the very practice indicates the presence of desire/fear. So long as there is such practice we know they exist and such practice is but a temporary escape. (Not saying such practice is worthless).

      ““But when Krishnamurti and Ramana use the word ‘experience’, they are talking about experience without an experiencer.” If this were the case, then they would be making meaningless statements.”

      There is plenty of available material that you can read to see this is the case. And I don’t think they were making meaningless statements. Though you may find them meaningless about which I cannot say/do anything.

      “Just as you cannot have a thought without a thinker, you cannot have an experience without an experiencer. This is misuse of English and does not need to invoke Advaita.”

      True for all but not for Jnanis. Ramana’s references to the state of deep/dreamless sleep to help ordinary people understand points to this. The experiencer is the past/self/ego/I. This enity undergoes and constantly accumulates experiences throughout life. But for the Jnanis there is no such entity. Ramana makes it abundantly clear.

      I am not interested whether we label Ramana and Krishnamurti as Advaita or not. Wil keep out of such issues.

      • Twopaisa,

        All practices are in the nature of preparation only; they are experiences and therfore have a beginning and an end.

        Anyone using English in order to communicate, whether or not they are a j~nAnI, has to use the grammar and syntax of that language if their communication is to be meaningful. But I agree that there is lot of meaningless material out there, into which gullible seekers can read whatever they like…

        • Dennis,

          Since you have accepted that you were talking about practices and preparations, it does not apply to Jnanis. I had clearly mentioned what a jnani means by experience as opposed to the rest of us. Even a jnani has to use an existing language to communicate and it is up to the listeners to pay attention to what they mean if they are earnest.

  20. Dennis,

    Just to clarify:
    “But when Krishnamurti and Ramana use the word ‘experience’, they are talking about experience without an experiencer.” If this were the case, then they would be making meaningless statements. Just as you cannot have a thought without a thinker, you cannot have an experience without an experiencer. This is misuse of English and does not need to invoke Advaita.

    In the context of what JK and Ramana might be referring to, both allude to the absence of an ‘entity’ = experiencer. Buddhists like to say there are arisings, but no self is attached to them. In this context, there can be experience without an experiencer, thought without a thinker. But this context has nothing to do with liberation and the Absolute which JK never talked about. These are all experiences of self, perhaps much deeper than the average seeker experiences. Self is not an entity, but an activity. It is an involuntary activity that cannot be controlled through mind. It is consciousness itself which is always manifesting. You can observe this every time you awaken, self and consciousness appear together. This activity which is automatic as long as you have a vital breath is the sense of continuity that you call YOU. The body is its stage. This is why there is no possible way out through your own efforts.

  21. Anon,

    These are all experiences, by a body-mind experiencer, and have nothing to do with Advaita – by definition. Experiences are in duality. The non-dual cannot be experienced, again by definition.

    “Self is an activity”?? Consciousness IS (sat); it does not ‘do’ anything.

    • Of course they are all experiences. That is my point. What else can you talk about that has tangible meaning to someone who feels suffering? The approach to experience is the foundation, not a high minded conceptual reality that you are asked to realize.

      • Then that has nothing to do with Advaita – by definition. Experiences are in duality. The non-dual cannot be experienced, again by definition.

        Those who are purely interesed in resolving the cause of their suffering, and then continuing to seek their desires/avoid their fears in the dualistic world, should be looking for doctors/psychiatrists etc and not spitirual philosophies.

        • You seem really unavailable to simple realities and understand little about the actual workings of your own body/mind. All of your responses are couched in philosophical terms learned through books. What has Advaita really done for you beside given you a platform for your conceptual thinking? What has it done for India where it was originated? By the look of it, not much except in the debating circles. This is elitism at its core. Duality and Non Duality are in your mind. No such things exist outside of your thinking. This is basic reality 101.

          • Simple question: If this is what you believe, what on earth are you doing wasting your time (and ours) on this site??

            • I’m not wasting MY time, but I can’t speak for you. Ours? I thought there was only ONE.

              Please find your feeling/being Dennis. Words are falling quite short at this moment.

  22. Dear Ramesam,

    Thank you for pointing us in the direction of those online comments discussing Dayananda and the extent his views are ‘traditional’. They are very helpful in setting out some context.

    As you indicated, I did not find them defamatory, just stating the facts about Dayananda’s teaching, and comparing and contrasting them to traditional sources. And it is surely not controversial that Dayananda – and Dennis for that matter – teaches that self-realisation is a matter of cognition, and reading scriptures, and not one of direct experience.

    As the commentator notes:

    “Dayananda, formely Nataraja, first and main guru was Swami Chinmayananda. He became involved with the Chinmaya mission at the beginning stages of its inception and was appointed general secretary. Later, Dayananda broke away from Chinmaya mission to start his own rival organization Arsh vidya. Dayananda’s chief disagreement was the role of direct experience(anubhava) in attaining liberation. Dayananda disagreed and said that liberation is only cognitive — merely listening to scriptures gives you direct knowledge and liberation is a result of assimilating this knowledge.

    “The second point is even Chinmayananda is loosely linked with tradition . . . Swami Tapovan [Swami Chinmayananda’s guru] was traditionally educated in Advaita, having studed under the Sankarcharayas and had become a famous Vedanta scholar. He was a strict disciplinarian. Chinmayananda had to undergo gruelling austerity living like a traditional monk. However, Chinmayananda, for understandable reasons, was more interested in the Indian independence struggle and saw great potential in Advaita for the purpose of Hindu revival; his dream was to preach Advaita to the new generation of educated Indians in order to create a new generation of Hindu missionaries who would be trained in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit and shastra on 2-3 years courses and workshops. This is how Dayananda was created.

    “Tapovan disagreed strongly with Chinmayananda’s idea, and for reasons which are justified: Advaita Vedanta is a spiritual tradition meant for spiritual seekers, it is not a nationalistic or missionary tradition meant for creating pandits. In fact Shankara condemns mere pandits of scriptures. Furthermore, traditional Advaita monks would live for decades serving their guru or in seclusion and practice with single-pointed focus on getting liberation.”

    I would cross-reference an earlier comment I made:


    It is not hard to see why seekers would flock to a path that involves a scholastic enquiry into scriptures, rather than the abandoning of all desires and attachments, to doggedly pursue self-investigation.


  23. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you for putting the issue in proper perspective.
    Hope the confusion in the thinking of the Questioner at Q # 381 is cleared at least to some extent.

    As you know, the very first aphorism from brahma sUtra-s says:

    atha ataH brahma jignyAsa

    There are TWO significant words in this bullet mandated before brahma jignyAsa (exploration of the Self) begins.
    They are atha and ataH which are not trivial.
    The two simple short words encapsulate a tonne of meaning:
    atha : now; there upon (intimates immediate consecution, i.e. after fulfilling the pre-programs);
    ataH – therefore; for this reason (the requisite mental drill having been completed).

    The firm resolve, steadfastness and unwavering commitment that are sina qua non for the pursuit of “Self-inquiry” come out loud and clear from the lives of the Sringeri Acharyas who are the true unadulterated flag-bearers of Shankara tradition unlike some others who use the word ‘tradition’ only as a brand name. Your Post of 16 Aug 2015 also highlights this aspect well.

    The Sringeri Math has been kind to release recently a short Bio of the 35th Acharya, Shri Abhinava Vidyateertha Swami as an e-book. One can see how he followed the path without any dilution of attention, with single-minded devotion and with vigor and rigor. Right from an early age he had one goal and no other avocations. The Sringeri Peetha records about the Swami:

    “He was a Jivan Mukta before He was 20.
    Strange as it may seem, His formal lessons in Vedanta commenced much after he had attained perfection in yoga. His guru expounded the Bhagavad Gita Bhashyam, Brahma Sutra Bhashyam and Bhashyam on Isa, Kena, Katha and Taittiriya Upanishads. To the Acharya, these lessons merely served to confirm what He had already learnt through His personal experiences earlier in life.”
    [http://www.sringeri.net/jagadgurus/sri-abhinava-vidyatirtha-mahaswamiji/biography ]

    One can savour glimpses of the disciplined and pious life of Shri Abhinava Vidyateertha from the 200-odd-page Book, “Yoga, Enlightenment and Perfection” (free download from Vidyateertha Foundation, Chennai) and note the stark contrast it stands in. [I was fortunate to have an audition with him in the 80s.]


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