Q.411 Action and Knowledge

Q: Brief scenario: While walking I notice the  floor is wet. I decide to walk carefully because I fear I might slip and fall otherwise.

I could think that the entire situation takes place within Consciousness (Jnana) , all of it is in fact Consciousness (Jnana) alone. That would mean that  the  fear of slipping and falling, and the  decision made to walk carefully (or even the decision not to walk carefully) are  also Consciounsess  (Jnana). Am I correct here or do I depart from Consciousness each time I make a decision and execute it etc as in that scenario ?

If “yes”, why? If “no”, why ?

A (Dennis): Floors, walking, slipping, deciding etc. are all mithyA – they are not real IN THEMSELVES. Their substratum – Consciousness – is the only reality. But neither are they unreal. From the standpoint of Stephen, in the world, they are real. so walk with care!

Swami Dayananda often referred to the story of the sage running from a rogue elephant. Here is how Krishnan Sugavanam told it:
“I remember a story which once Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati narrated. There was a King in whose court there were a number of preceptors from various philosophies, including one from Advaita. The King was very close to the Advaitin and the other philosophers were looking for the first opportunity to prove the Advaitin wrong. One day, when the King and his retinue were walking in a forest, suddenly there appeared a wild
elephant. The Advaitin was the first one to take off and run for cover.

Later, when all of them assembled in the King’s court, preceptors of other philosophies wasted no time in grasping the opportunity to point out to the King, that though the Advaitin taught everything was “Mithya”, he was the first one to run on seeing the wild elephant – and they asked “Why would the Advaitin run on seeing the wild Mithya elephant?” The Advaitin queried them back calmly “yes I did run – but who said my running was Satyam – it was also Mithya”. :-)”

Q: Just to clarify because my focus is on the decision made and the execution of that decision  –  my decision to walk carefully on the wet floor and the advaitin’s decision to run from the wild elephant are the same – the decisions made were just “mithya”?

A: Decisions take place in the mind, and the mind is mithyA. Everything that is part of the dualistic world is necessarily mithyA. The ONLY reality is brahman-Consciousness-Atman-Absolute (whatever you want to call it) (although, to be pedantic, the ‘calling’ of it is also mithyA).

Q: (1) Does that mean that each time I make a decision in my daily life, I am departing from Consciousness and reinforcing my  dualistic mind which in turn will keep me in samsara?

(2) How does an Advaitin  go through the dying process, death itself and after death state?

(3) How does one who lives and works in the world (“householder”) ensure that his totally thought-free ? Otherwise, if he cannot be totally thought-free, he will not realise his Self fully etc?

A: Have you read any of my books? The latest ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’ may be the one to read, though ‘Book of One 2nd edition is more general.

You seem to be under the illusion that something is either mithyA or Consciousness. There is ONLY Consciousness, ever, whether you are a seeker or a j~nAnI. You cannot ‘depart from’ Consciousness.

There are descriptions in the scriptures about the process of death and rebirth. But the ‘bottom line’ is that who-you-really-are (Consciousness) will never die because you were never born.

Thoughts are part of living in the world. Having Self-knowledge does not mean that you no longer think!

Q: I failed to state clearly my problem so far.  From “the 40 Verses on Reality”  by Bhagavan Sri Ramana which I read long ago, my conclusion was that if  I perceived the truth that “I am a body” is Jnana only, then all thoughts including  decisions and choices will also be perceived as Jnana only .

I started having problems when I re-read again  the 11th and 13th paragraphs of “Who Am I ” by Bhagavan Sri Ramana  in which all thoughts (including decisions and choices)  must be annihilated immediately and consistently (11th paragraph) , and in which in which no thoughts are allowed to arise (13th paragraph).  To me , I thought  those two paragraphs  meant that no thoughts should exist or  arise totally.

Looking back, comparing both  “40 Verses On Reality” and “Who Am I” together ,  I think  what Bhagavan meant was simply to view all thoughts that arise (including decision making and choices) are simply Jnana and nothing more.

A: I don’t understand what you are saying (thinking) when you refer to regarding thoughts as ‘Jnana only’. j~nAna normally refers to the Self-knowledge possessed by a j~nAnI or sage.

I don’t recall if I said earlier that Self-knowledge IS enlightenment. But whether I did or not, it bears repetition. You don’t realize the truth ‘intellectually’ and then have to go away and DO something. Action is not opposed to ignorance, so no amount of ‘doing’ can ever bring about enlightenment.

Much as I respect Ramana, books such as ‘Who Am I’ and ’40 verses’ etc are not really very helpful. (The ‘Talks’ are better in a general sense, because they cover lots of useful independent aspects.) The idea that you have to somehow ‘destroy’ thoughts (manonAsha) is actually UNhelpful, because the literal understanding is wrong. Read my article at https://www.advaita-vision.org/manonasha-not-the-literal-death-of-the-mind/ to (hopefully!) appreciate this.

One thought on “Q.411 Action and Knowledge

  1. Just to add to Dennis’ response, I’m not sure where the questioner believes that in 40 Verses Bhagavan says thoughts are jnana?

    Bhagavan in both texts that you refer to, advises to direct your attention away from external objects and (internal) thoughts, and to the I-thought, i.e. the ego, and to examine its reality. By so doing, he says that you will find the I-thought evaporates, as do other thoughts, leaving you in your ‘natural’ state.

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