Q: After reading and listening to non-duality teachers I got to know that there is nothing that can be done; there is nothing to attain and nothing to achieve. Whatever ‘is’, simply is.
So what should we do actually? After knowing this truth how should we live our life? Earlier I wanted to do sAdhana to attain self-realization and enlightenment. Now I have understood that it is the ego which is asking that.
Now in my life I have a feeling that, whatever activity I undertake, it’s just about keeping my mind and body engaged. Be it any activity – reading a book, doing meditation, working at the office – I feel that there is a separation between ‘I’ and the ‘mind’. When an activity or any kind of work starts, then the Mind and body are involved in it but I am separate from all of them. When the activity finishes, I again have my body and mind available to be engaged in another activity.
A: You seem not to be differentiating between absolute and empirical reality (paramArtha and vyavahAra). From the absolute viewpoint, there is only Brahman so that doing, enjoying, knowing etc. have no meaning – there is no one, no thing. But from the empirical perspective – from your personal viewpoint – there is a world and people. And there are j~nAnI-s and aj~nAnI-s (people who know the truth and those who do not). If you do not know the truth, you will suffer in life, so what can (and should!) be done is to find out the truth: that who-you-really-are is Brahman. Of course it is the ego that wants to do this but this desire is the one desire that is not only permissible, it should be encouraged!
Once your mind truly and irrevocably knows the truth (this is the meaning of being ‘enlightened’), you can then do whatever happens to be your svadharma or ‘calling’. This may just be carrying on doing your everyday job, living a family life, or whatever. But you may need to continue nididhyAsana in the form of study, reading, teaching, discussing Advaita so that the Self-knowledge is consolidated and you benefit from peace and happiness etc. for the remainder of the jIva’s life.
‘Once your mind truly and irrevocably knows the truth (this is the meaning of being ‘enlightened’), you can then do whatever happens to be your svadharma or ‘calling’. This may just be carrying on doing your everyday job, living a family life, or whatever.’
A2: For the enlightened sage, ‘whatever’ may include behavior that by virtue of its indistinct (avyakta) and paradoxical nature would likely dumbfound and alienate unenlightened family, friends, and even employers. As the enlightened sage transcends the limitations of the empirical world, his or her behavior is not bound by the norms and regulations that govern the behavior of an ignorant person. Therefore, the pattern of the jnani’s behavior, like that of a lunatic or of a child is highly paradoxical and unpredictable. Nevertheless, because of the complete absence of egoism, even when the jnani ‘wanders in the world, sometimes like a madman, sometimes like a child and at other times like a ghoul…sleeping without fear in cremation grounds or forests’, Shankara assures us he or she behaves with utmost humility.
Rick Riekert: “Nevertheless, because of the complete absence of egoism, even when the jnani ‘wanders in the world, sometimes like a madman, sometimes like a child and at other times like a ghoul…”
Excellent comment, thanks Rick.
The first and foremost thing for the dawning of “enlightenment” is, at the minimum, the drop of ‘dehAtma bhAva.’
Shankara says at 18.11, BG:
“No man of discrimination can be said to have dehAtma bhAva.
The abandonment of all actions is possible for him alone who, realizing the Supreme Reality, does not regard the body as the Self (i.e. dehAtma bhAva).
The true loss of dehAtma bhAva happens when the knots of the heart are cut and all doubts disappear (as per muNDaka, 2.2.8).
An enlightened individual, who has no sense of an attachment to the body (dehAtma buddhi), will not be able to even recognize objects, as Shankara repeatedly impresses us throughout his bhAShya-s. Recently, this is pointed out at “brahman, the Bliss – 2/2” quoting Shankara at 3.9..28 (7), brihat.
Therefore, it is doubtful whether a jnAni can go about with a profession or vocation like any other unenlightened individual in this world.
Further, we have the example where Sri Krishna asks Arjuna to carry on with his swadharma, following the path of karma samnyAsa as, in the opinion of Krishna, Arjuna was not yet ready to take up Knowledge path and achieve enlightenment.
Regarding what a jnani will or will not do, can or can not do – Please read this again – I am sure you have read it at least once.
“…The comprehension of total action surely does not prevent political, educational or religious activity. These are not separate activities, they are all part of a unitary process which will express itself in different directions. What is important is this unitary process, and not a separate political action, however apparently beneficial…”
Alas, Shishya, you have a knack to eminently confuse yourself!
An advice about a holistic action for social reformation in order “To bring about an equitable distribution of food, clothing, shelter,” which are a the “basic necessities” for a man within the time-space-causational world and a jnAni’s life are as much related to each other as the dream world to the awake world!
And learn by approaching the excellent and wise teachers.
They say that the path is as impassable as a sharpened razor’s edge.” — 1.3.14, kaTha
Alas back to you, Ramesam ! I am astounded that you
think K is giving advice, or as you put it
“An advice about a holistic action for social reformation in order “To bring about an equitable distribution of food, clothing, shelter,” which are a the “basic necessities” for a man within the time-space-causational world….
Isn’t JK’s “total action” another way of phrasing nishkama karma, desireless action?That is the level that JK talks.
Contrary to BG, we seem to be believe that we are all, or can readily become, jnanis, without having done any of the preparatory work of karma yoga, viveka & vairagya.
Neoadvaitains and Neo-“traditional” vedantins have confused themselves and their followers with equating a jnani to a person who keeps in mind “I am awareness’ or ‘I am Brahman’ . . . et voila.
JK and Vivekananda I would suggest were under no such delusions about the qualifications of the general population – and especially the sadhaka population!
A great teacher of Vedanta and the living embodiment of what he taught, Swami Brahmananda of Rishikesh used to tell his students that the preliminary disciplines were more important than the words and other means used in teaching. For the reason that without this preparation one could not grasp the inner meaning of the words or appreciate the methodology used by the teacher. And therefore the spiritual force that was the unique contribution of the teacher could not be transferred to the student. He also stressed that acquiring the four-fold qualifications was extremely difficult, almost impossible for the average person immersed in the sense world. Though humble and kind, Swami Brahmananda certainly did not encourage a merely conceptual, country club style Vedanta.
Sorry I overlooked your comment.
I would go further than “desireless action” and call it surrender to the unknown as in
The First and Last Freedom
Question and Answers
THE FIRST AND LAST FREEDOM QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS QUESTION 18 ‘SURRENDER TO `WHAT IS”
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
5th April 1937
D.: Is there no dehatma buddhi (I-am-the-body idea) for the Jnani?
If, for instance, Sri Bhagavan be bitten by an insect, is there no
M.: There is the sensation and there is also the dehatma buddhi. The
latter is common to both Jnani and ajnani with this difference, that
the ajnani thinks dehaiva Atma (only the body is myself), whereas
the Jnani knows all is of the Self (Atmamayam sarvam), or (sarvam
khalvidam Brahma) all this is Brahma. If there be pain let it be. It
is also part of the Self. The Self is poorna (perfect).
Now with regard to the actions of the Jnani, they are only so-called
because they are ineffective. Generally the actions get embedded
as samskaras in the individual. That can be only so long as the
mind is fertile, as in the case of the ajnani. With a Jnani the mind
is surmised; he has already transcended the mind. Because of his
apparent activity the mind has to be inferred in his case, and that
mind is not fertile like that of an ajnani. Hence it is said that a
jnani’s mind is Brahman. Brahman is certainly no other than the
jnani’s mind. The vasanas cannot bear fruit in that soil. His mind
is barren, free from vasanas, etc.
However, since prarabdha was conceded in his case, vasanas also
must be supposed to exist. If they exist they are only for enjoyment
(bhogahetu). That is to say, actions bear twofold fruits, the one for
enjoyment of their fruits and the other leaving an impress on the
mind in the form of samskaras for subsequent manifestation in
future births. The jnani’s mind being barren cannot entertain seeds
of karma. His vasanas simply exhaust themselves by activities
ending in enjoyment only (bhogahetuka karma). In fact, his karma
is seen only from the ajnani’s standpoint. He remains actionless
only. He is not aware of the body as being apart from the Self. How
can there be liberation (mukti) or bondage (bandha) for him? He is
beyond both. He is not bound by karma, either now or ever. There
is no jivanmukta or videhamukta according to him.
D.: From all this it looks as if a Jnani who has scorched all the
vasanas is the best and that he would remain inactive like a stock
M.: No, not necessarily. Vasanas do not affect him. Is it not itself a
vasana that one remains like a stock or stone? Sahaja is the state.
A j~nAnI will act according to his prArabdha, governed by the knowledge now in his mind that he is actually Brahman and there is nothing other than That.
I suspect that ideas relating to j~nAnI-s behaving like mad men etc. stem from drop-outs acting in this way in order to get free meals from gullible householders thinking they are vidvat saMnyAsin-s!
Ramesam – “Therefore, it is doubtful whether a jnAni can go about with a profession or vocation like any other unenlightened individual in this world.”
THAT is the ineluctable conclusion of reading Sankara.
Shishya – you need to be careful in taking Talks out of context. The most reliable source of Ramana’s teaching is his written works plus GVK.
Dennis – your comment is so confused, it is not much better than a Neo-advaitin ‘teacher’ wondering around saying “just look and see that you are awareness”.
Pray tell what action does a jnani have to do, when he has no desires? Even feeding and clothing and housing the body is not his concern. ‘He lives by what comes to him by chance’ – Mandukyakarika. That is Sankara’s constant refrain – however much you seek to dismiss it as ‘figurative’.
Suresvara at the end of his vartika on BUB4.5 (Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi) writes:
“Then, in order to reaffirm that the knowledge which has been mentioned becomes the means to all, after having set aside all action, he renounced immediately, after this conversation, not thinking / hesitating. Since not only is this knowledge non-expectant of all action and means but there is the expectation of abandonment of entire action also; therefore the sage, though he had accomplished the objects of desire on account of having well understood the nature of that reality, hurriedly himself gave up all action which has speech, manas and body as means.”
In GVK, Bhagavan himself added a verse:
1141a: In the same way that a leaf plate is thrown away after eating food from it, the jnani who has known his Self will discard his body.
Reminiscent of Sankara writing in BUB comparing a jnani’s body to a snake shedding its skin.
1142: Will the wave of the deep ocean allow a small creature which has fallen into it and which is on the point of death, to raise up its head? Likewise in the face of the full flood of the Silence of true knowledge, is it possible for the ego ‘I am the body’ to rise?
As an aside, note the simple beauty of Bhagavan’s composition vs the more melodramatic use of metaphor by Muruganar
Thank you very much for your precise and very apt observation.
There is no reason to think that any word uttered any time by the 20th Cent Greats in philosophy/Advaita is always about the Ultimate Truth. Most of the time, the responses of these great teachers, including Ramana, Nisargadatta et al are tailored to the needs and capabilities of the Questioner.
Thanks once again for the clarity you could bring in.