Q.494 Brahman and the World

Q: There is potential confusion between ‘knowing about it’ and actually ‘being it’; between ‘self-realization’ and ‘self-actualization’. ‘Knowing about it’ is in the mind, whereas ‘being it’ has nothing to do with the mind. Along these lines is why Nisargadatta always said that who-we-really are is prior to the body-mind and Consciousness and to leave them alone.

What are your thoughts about all this?

A: Basically, we are already Brahman. The problem is that we do not know it. Remove the ignorance and we realize the truth. You cannot ‘experience’ or ‘perceive’ Brahman. You can only realize that we are it. Hence, the term ‘anubhava’ is misunderstood and modern teachers have been propagating a misunderstanding of the teaching. The term ‘self-actualization’ is definitely a modern one, I think, and can mean nothing. How can you ‘make actual’ what is already the case?

Q: That makes sense obviously, but for some reason, this whole thing of ‘experiencing or feeling’ something special is what people want but also think is the key to it all. And it’s not!

Just a quick clarification: As there is only Brahman, and I am that, is it correct to say that everything is me, but I am not anyone of them? I.e.: the wave is water but the water is not the wave?

So the truth is I am satyam only and not mithyA?

A: Yes; that is ok up to a point. You have mentally to differentiate between saguNa and nirguNa though. When you say ‘everything is me but I am not anyone of them’, or ‘wave is water but water is not wave’, you are taking the role of Ishvara and speaking from the vyAvahArika point of view. When you say ‘I am satyam’, you are (as if) taking the stance of nirguNa brahman. Hope this is clear – getting a bit technical!

Q: So the confusion of levels really is, or can be, the central problem with final understanding?

And to continue with the analogy: there is only gold, and as the gold itself, there is nothing else, or even knowing myself as gold. But as the ring, bracelet or necklace, I can know myself as gold.

P.S. Nisargadatta Maharaj was really good at differentiating the levels even though he didn’t go exactly by scripture. He constantly told people they were not the body-mind and that identification with the body-mind was the key problem.

A: It’s a logical way of putting it but still potentially confusing. It is certainly true that you (the jIva) can know yourself to be Brahman (ring knowing itself as gold) – this is what enlightenment is. But if you start trying to say that Brahman does not know it is Brahman, you are on very shaky ground. It does not really mean anything. And you (the jIva) cannot say anything at all about Brahman. (You can only ‘point’ to it by such phrases as satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma.) If it were really true (disregarding the fact that it is meaningless) to say that Brahman did not know itself, that would be a limitation – and Brahman is anantam – without limitation.

If you really want to understand all of this, you have to give up on Nisargadatta, Ramana and Krishna Menon. Read Vol.1 of VaradarAjan’s commentary on the TaittirIyopaniShad. This explains, in minute detail, Shankara’s commentary on satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma. (couple of hundred pages I think!)

Q: I looked for that volume 1 you recommended but couldn’t seem to find it. Do you have a link to it?

A: Vol. 1 only: https://www.amazon.com/Taittiriyopanisad-Sankarabhasyam-Divyajnana-Sarojini-Varadarajan/dp/B071XJMPS9/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?keywords=Sarojini+Varadarajan&qid=1556523805&s=gateway&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

N.B. If you buy from Amazon.com, the books actually ship from Exotic India. See which is cheaper.

Exotic India both volumes: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/taittiriyopanisad-with-sankarabhasyam-explaining-each-and-every-word-of-bhashya-set-of-2-volumes-NAM791/ or first volume only: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/taittiriyopanisad-with-sankarabhasyam-NAM258/

Of course, if you buy Vol. 1 only, it is doubtful that you would then be able to buy Vol. 2 on its own. I haven’t read Vol. 2 yet but I have read her version of Mundaka Upanishad and that is brilliant, too. I will buy her Kena and Katha eventually, too. (Note that I have since completed Vol. 2 and am currently reading the Katha.)

Q: So I figured out where my hang up is:

I know without a doubt that all there is is Brahman, and I am That. However, when it comes to mithyA, should there be a ‘mental distancing’, if you will, between me, the Absolute, and everything else which is mithyA?  Kind of like when I wake from a dream in the morning – I know that I am not the dream even though I projected it; or like an actor playing a role knows who he really is and has a ‘mental distance’ from his character.

Please help clarify.

Wait… lol… sorry, but I think I figured it out:

Truthfully and technically speaking, there is no body or mind or world, there is only Brahman! I know that, but got caught up with thinking that the world and mind and body are ‘there’ somehow, but they are simply a name and form of the one Brahman! How easy this ignorance or appearance can fool you and catch you out!

I got caught thinking that there’s two separate things going on at once here. The truth or Brahman and this world-body-mind-etc.

Anyway, any comment with my follow up email here?

A: Yes, of course you are right. Regardless of knowing the truth, the mithyA world is not going to go away. And there is always the danger of temporarily getting caught up in it. It appears to be real but is actually always just name and form of Brahman.

The metaphor of the actor is a good one. I suspect that the really good actor, while he is ‘in his role’, does not always remember that he is only acting. This is the purpose of nididhyAsana – constantly reinforcing the Self-knowledge. I do it by reading and writing about it virtually daily. As time goes on, the fact of the matter never quite goes away, even though you may be playing the role really well (to the point of getting caught up in it).