Q.410 Teaching the blind

Q: How do you teach Advaita to a blind person ? I am talking about a person who has been blind since birth, who has no vision of external reality/unreality. The adhyAsa bhAShya talks about superimposing the subject and the objects. But both subject and object are not perceived by a person who has been blind since birth. All that he/she would be aware of is taste, smell, sound, sensations. How would you proceed with such a candidate ? The theory of negating the superimposed almost fails for such a person, for he/she cannot ‘see’ or ‘perceive’ what is superimposed !

 I am not saying the avasthA traya is not a good way to start here, the avasthA traya prakriyA holds good for even a blind person. That is, your dream is just like your waking state. But the problem is, there is no perception in either dreams, waking or deep sleep for such a person. Here’s a video that confirms that people who are blind since birth don’t see anything in their dreams : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpUW9pm9wxs.

If you’re a jIvanmukta, I request you to close your eyes and then tell me if you can still get established in the self, you’d understand how difficult this is !

Thanks for any and all inputs on this subject.

Note: I am aware that Atman is beyond perception, but to know one has gone beyond perception is easy when one still sees and not when he doesn’t see. It’s just the same for a blind man.

A (Dennis): Self-realization is about knowledge, not experience. Self-knowledge is gained by listening to a qualified teacher unfolding the scriptures and asking questions to resolve doubts. Sight is clearly an important sense, especially to someone who has grown up with that sense! Sight is obviously not at all an important sense to someone who has been blind from birth!

The scriptures use many metaphors and stories, and a fair number of these relate to the sense of sight. But they are adaptable to other senses and adhyAsa relates to ‘perception’, not specifically to sight. One can imagine hearing something, not altogether clearly – maybe one was attending to something else at the time and therefore not ‘tuned in’. One can imagine that in such a situation, one might erroneously conclude that it was X when it was really Y. Upon investigation – approaching the source of the sound and listening carefully – the truth of the matter would be realized. This is perfectly analogous to the rope-snake example and would carry the same meaning. Obviously you would need to think of something appropriately dramatic – say a squeaking door that sounded like a vicious animal.

I agree that the avasthA traya prakriyA might not be quite so useful to someone who did not experience visual dreams. Congenitally blind people do have dreams involving other senses though, so I don’t think they would have any difficulty translating to their own experience.

I don’t know what you are referring to with “to know one has gone beyond perception is easy”.

Q: What is easier for me is to negate that which I see, but true as you say, that all talk is only a superimposition. My query has been somewhat resolved. But negating sound and other sensations takes time and patience. Negating such things comes through grace of bhagavan and is not all that easy. But thank you, anyhow for your efforts. The easiest way that I have found is to lose the “I” and holding unto it makes it very difficult. 

The method I follow is adhyAropa apavAda, i.e, negating the superimposed. Could you please throw some light on the “Who am I ?” way of finding out the basis, as this method makes me search for the basis, which I understand is totally wrong. Because, wherever there is a ‘Trinity’ there is aj~nAna. 

A: Gaining Self-knowledge is never going to be easy – it is largely a repudiation of all that we have been taught and have picked up in a lifetime of experience. The proven method is mind-preparation, enumerated by Shankara in sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti, followed by traditional teaching – shravaNa, manana, nididhyAsana.

adhyAropa-apavAda is the ‘method’ of traditional teaching – explaining things in a particular way that you understand but later saying that, actually, it is not quite like that.

Ramana’s ‘Who am I?’ is not, in itself, a ‘way of finding out the truth’. My understanding is that it is intended to make you realize that you do not know, so that you ‘enlist’ the help of a traditional teacher who will use the proven methods to explain the scriptures to you.

One thought on “Q.410 Teaching the blind

  1. Is negating the superimposed – the method the questioner purportedly follows – a good technique or method? Is it not enough knowing that superimposing is something that is going on constantly in normal parlance? When I say, for example, ‘I have done such and such’, I know that the subject here is a spurious or apparent or empirical one, and that should be enough. The real ‘I’ does not do anything. As Dennis says, knowledge is the key.

    In fact, if in the example I gave above I negate the superimposed (empirical) subject, I am ipso facto making of the real ‘I’ a doer!

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