Shankara and Mind

In his comments on the post ‘SamAdhi Again (Part 2)‘, Venkat said: “Dayananda has nothing useful to say about realisation. All of his statements are his mundane interpretations that don’t reconcile to anything that the great masters from Gaudapada and Sankara have said.”

And “Could you provide a couple of quotes from Sankara to support your Dayananda comment:
“Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it””

This attitude was also supported by Shishya in his comment on the same post: “I think Venkat put it very well.”

Accordingly, I have collected together a number of quotations that support the contention that only knowledge (and not action or samAdhi etc.) produces enlightenment; that ‘enlightenment’ is nothing other than Self-knowledge arising in the mind; and that the mind continues after enlightenment. These quotations demonstrate that those readers who have been criticising Swami Dayananda and his followers have been doing so unjustly.


A. Bhagavad Gita bhASya


“(Similarly) the same Self, which is in reality beyond all changes of state, is called ‘enlightened’ on account of discriminative knowledge separating the Self from the not-self, even though such knowledge is only a modification of the mind and illusory in character (and implies no real change of state).


“Moreover that monk (i.e. man of realization) is then called a man of steady wisdom; when his mind is unperturbed; when his mind is unperturbed by the sorrows that come on the physical or other planes; …and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger.

and BG 2.55 says that a stitha praj~na is a man who drives away all desires that crop up in the mind.


“That man of renunciation who, entirely abandoning all desires, goes through life contented with the bare necessities of life, who regards not as his even those things which are needed for mere bodily existence, who is not vain of his knowledge – such a man-of-steady-knowledge, who knows Brahman, attains peace, the end of all the misery of mundane existence.” (i.e. he still has a mind!)

Intro to Ch. 3

“One conclusion stands out with all certainty in the Gita as also the Upanishads – liberation can be had only of knowledge.”


“He in whom this discriminative knowledge has arisen, who has renounced all action, continues nevertheless to rest in the nine-gated city of the body, undergoing experiences conforming to the (unexhausted) remainder of the impressions of that portion of his past deeds which initiated the present birth.” (i.e. he carries on to the end of his life, with a mind!)


“The fact that knowledge, which removes the darkness of ignorance, culminates in Liberation as its result is directly perceived in the same way as is the result of the light of a lamp which removes ignorance in the form of snake etc, and darkness from objects such as rope etc. Indeed, the result of light amounts to the mere (awareness of the) rope, free from the wrong notion of snake etc. So is the case with Knowledge.”

B. Brahmasutra bhAShya


“When avidyA or nescience is destroyed through knowledge of the Self, brahman manifests itself, just as a rope manifests itself when the illusion of the snake is removed. As brahman is your inner Self, you cannot attain it by any action. It is realized as one’s own Atman when the ignorance is annihilated.”

The whole of the second half of BSB 1.1.4 is concerned with showing that liberation does not result from any action (na mokShaH kriyAsAdhyaH) and that the Upanishads are the sole source of Self-knowledge (AtmanaH aupaniShadatvasthApanabhAShyam).


“Hence, too, for this further reason that non-difference is natural whereas difference is a creation of ignorance, the individual destroys ignorance through knowledge and attains unity with the supreme, eternal, conscious self.”


Only saMchita karma is destroyed and not prArabdha, as the pUrvapakSha tries to maintain:

“The Sutra refutes this view and says that only the Sanchita works are destroyed by Knowledge, but not the Prarabdha, which are destroyed only by being worked out. So long as the momentum of these works lasts, the knower of Brahman has to be in the body. When they are exhausted, the body falls off, and he attains perfection. His Knowledge cannot check these works, even as an archer has no control over the arrows already discharged, which come to rest only when their momentum is exhausted.”


“When ignorance is eliminated and knowledge reaches its perfection, the state of identity with all, which is another name for liberation, is attained.”

C. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad bhAShya


“Just as, when a mother-of-pearl appears through mistake as a piece of silver, the non-apprehension of the former, although it is being perceived all the while, is merely due to the obstruction of the false impression, and its (subsequent) apprehension is but knowledge, for this is what removes the obstruction of false impression; similarly here also the non-attainment of the Self is merely due to the obstruction of ignorance. Therefore the attainment of It is simply the removal of that obstruction by knowledge; in no other sense it is consistent.”


“When ignorance is eliminated and knowledge reaches its perfection, the state of identity with all, which is another name for liberation, is attained.”


“And the cause of liberation has been stated to be the attainment of all objects of desire through their becoming the Self. But since this state is unattainable without Self-knowledge, the cause of liberation has by implication been stated to be the knowledge of Brahman. Therefore, though desire has been said to be the root of bondage, it is ignorance that, being the opposite of what leads to liberation (knowledge), has virtually been stated to be the cause of bondage.”


“The means of the realization of that Brahman is being described. Through the mind alone, purified by the knowledge of the supreme Truth, and in accordance with the instructions of the teacher.”


“The knowledge of brahman means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body). The relation of identity with It has not to be directly established, for it is already there. Everybody already has that identity with It, but it appears to be related to something else. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than That should stop. When the identification with other things is gone, that identity with one’s own Self which is natural, becomes isolated; this is expressed by the statement that the Self is known. In itself It is unknowable–not comprehended through any means. “

D. Mundaka Upanishad bhAShya


“For a person committed to karma, commitment to brahmaj~nAnam is not possible because there is enmity between karma and j~nAnam” (i.e. ‘doing’ things cannot lead to mokSha.)


“All this is a product of Brahman. Therefore he who knows that I am indeed the absolutely eternal Brahman, which is everything, and which exists in the mind of all living beings; such a wise person destroys the knot of ignorance, which has become as though knotted firmly by the subtle impressions, vAsanA-s in the mind brought about by avidyA.”


“This subtle AtmA has to be known through the mind alone wherein the prANa in a five-fold way has entered. The whole mind of the people along with the sense organs is pervaded by Consciousness. When this (mind) becomes pure, this AtmA becomes evident. This AtmA being very subtle can be known or recognized only by the pure mind… In the heart of that live body, AtmA has to be known or recognized by the pure mind.”


“Just as objects like pot etc. reveal themselves when light falls on them, so also in the presence of Atma j~nAna, born from shAstra pramANa, the ignorance cover having been removed from it, the AtmA becomes evident, as though it is revealing itself.”


“After knowing that Atma thoroughly, which is the inner self of yourself, as well as the inner-self of all living beings, may you give up all other sayings which are in the form of aparavidyA, and all those karmas which are revealed by aparavidyA, and all those mantras and homas, which are the means employed by the aparavidyA; because it is the knowledge of the AtmA, which is indeed of the nature of immortality. This knowledge, which is the means to immortality is the dam, the capable means of getting rid of the great ocean of saMsAra. In support of this there is another shruti statement (shvetAshvatara Upanishad 3.8 and repeated in 6.15), which says ‘by knowing the AtmA alone one goes beyond death; there is no other way.’”


“Moreover, those who know Brahman, and therefore understand what mokSha is, look upon the attainment of mokSha as the removal of saMsAra bondage only, in the form of ignorance etc.; mokSha is not a produce born of any action.”


“…by mere knowledge all the obstacles are gone. This is so because the only obstacle between the jIva and mokSha is in the form of ignorance. There is no other obstacle because mokSha is one’s eternal nature, and also one’s intrinsic nature.”

E. Taittiriya Upanishad bhAShya

sambandha bhAShya

“Therefore, when that ignorance is removed one abides in oneself. One’s ability to abide in one’s own true nature is called mokSha.”

brahmAnandavallI anuvAka 1

“The Upanishad itself directly talks about the benefit in the very beginning of the anuvAka thus: ‘the knower of Brahman attains the ultimate puruShArtha mokSha, or absolute happiness of Brahman. And in order to introduce the great benefit the shruti gives the connection. Wheh the connection between the knowledge and the result of that knowledge is indeed well ascertained and understood only then will a student pursue this brahmavidyA, listening to the teaching till the subject matter is completely understood or grasped without doubts, and then assimilate, retain and dwell in the mind the essence of the grasped teaching from all standpoints. Thus, through shravaNa etc. only can one gain the benefit of brahmavidyA.”

F. upadesha sAhasrI

metrical part 1.6 – 7

“Only knowledge [of Brahman] can destroy ignorance; action cannot [destroy it] since [action] is not incompatible [with ignorance]. Unless ignorance is destroyed, passion and aversion will not be destroyed. Unless passion and aversion are destroyed, action arises inevitably from [those] faults. Therefore, for the sake of the final beatitude, only knowledge [of Brahman] is set forth here [in the Vedanta].”

metrical part 4.

“Whoever possesses knowledge of the Self, which contradicts the notion that the Self is the body as clearly as the ‘knowledge’ of the ignorant man affirms it, is liberated whether he wishes it or not.”

G. Katha Upanishad bhAShya


“Compare the case of a piece of transparent crystal where, before the introduction of a discriminating cognition, the true nature of the crystal, which is really whitish and transparent, does not seem to be different from such external adjuncts as the red or blue color of the objects near which it is placed. But after the rise of a discriminating cognition, the crystal becomes distinct, and is said to have ‘attained’ its true nature as whitish and transparent, although it was really exactly the same all along. In the same way, when the true nature of the soul is not yet discriminated from the body and other external adjuncts, the cognition arising through the Veda that does effect this discrimination is what constitutes ‘transcending the body’. And the ‘attainment of the soul’s true nature’ is nothing more than knowledge of the true nature of the Self, the result of the discriminating cognition.”


“Since He is not known to a man whose intellect has not been purified, it is said, ‘He does not appear’. But He is seen through the purified intellect… by the seers of subtle things. The seers are those who have become skilled in penetrating into the subtlest thing through their perception of an ascending order of subtleness by following the process as indicated in the text ‘The sense objects are higher than the senses etc.’ By them, i.e. by the wise people.”

H. vivekachUDAmaNi


“Action is for purification of the mind, not for gaining the truth. Knowledge of the truth is by inquiry alone; not even a little knowledge is by crores of actions.”

I. mANDUkya upaniShad bhAShya

3.34 (Note that this passage also negates the notions of those who claim that the deep-sleep state is the same as turIya.)

“In deep sleep, the working of the mind is seized by delusion and darkness caused by ignorance and is possessed of many impressions which are the seeds of numerous harmful activities lurking within it. While the working of the niruddha (controlled) mind is quite different and uncontrolled (by ignorance), and is tranquil being free from ignorance causing painful activities. This niruddha mind burns all seeds of harmful activities by the fire of the knowledge that AtmA alone is the truth. In view of this, the niruddha mind and the mind in deep sleep are not the same.” [Prof. Jayantkrishna H. Dave translation. He goes on to say: “In niruddha mind, the seeds of vAsanA are completely burnt by the fire of Atmabodha and is free of all vikalpas or imaginations. It is merged in AtmA not temporarily as in sleep but completely. The niruddha mind is established in AtmA by viveka or discrimination (dhImataH). It is distinguished from the mechanical yogic samAdhi as described by Patanjali and also from the mind in deep sleep.]”

J. ChAndogya upaniShad bhAShya


“Owing to the removal of the bondage of ignorance… he becomes freed… and attaining his own real Self which is Existence, he becomes happy and peaceful. This very idea is stated in the sentence ‘AchAryavAn puruShaH veda’ – a man having a teacher acquires knowledge.” He goes on to explain that the ‘attaining of Existence’ occurs when the prArabdha karma karma runs out and the body dies.

K. shvetAshvatara upaniShad


“By knowing Him alone one transcends death; there is no other path to go by.”

58 thoughts on “Shankara and Mind

  1. Dear Dennis,

    My sincere thanks for the effort and time to put together these quotes. I am afraid that you have missed the gist of what I have been saying. I am not disagreeing that Sankara said knowledge was the only means to liberation; the disagreement lies in what he meant by knowledge and how this is to be attained. All your quotes simply reinforce my point that knowledge is negative (and associated logically with renunciation) rather than positive (and associated with continuing to live normally).

    You quote Dayananda as saying:
    “Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it”

    To recap my understanding:

    (1) This quote implies a definition of knowledge that is positive, in the sense that you have learned from the scriptures that “I am Brahman / consciousness / thoughtfree”, and that knowledge is all there is to self-realisation. Indeed you (/ he?) have often contended that Atma vichara is actually only Sruti vichara.

    (2) You / he have also contended that one can have gained this knowledge (be a Jnani), and still not be free from misery (be a jivanmukta) because one has not completed his course of sadhana chatustya.

    (3) D contends that this knowledge of being thought-free can be there in the presence of thoughts.

    (4) And that mithya is not a problem.

    (5) You / he also contend that there are 2 lifestyles a seeker of truth and a jnani can pursue – karma yogi and sannyasin.

    My response to these numbered points:

    (1) It is clear to me, as I’m sure it must be for you, that Sankara has said that there can be no positive knowledge of Brahman; all that can happen is the removal of ignorance, which is ‘not this, not this’, because we are not all of these things that we’ve identified with. What remains is Brahman. That is not positive knowledge, in the sense that you can learn this from sruti; sruti is pointing to a process of negation – hence vedanta can be defined as ‘the end of knowledge’.

    Your own quote states: ““The knowledge of brahman means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body).”

    More emphatic is Sankara’s unambiguous comment from Brhad Up 4.5.15:

    “The self is the last word of it all, arrived at by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and nothing else is perceived either through reasoning or through scriptural statement, therefore the knowledge of this self by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and the renunciation of everything are the only means of attaining immortality”

    Your own quotes point to the destruction of ignorance through knowledge. In this quote above, Sankara clearly states that this self-knowledge is arrived at through a (self-enquiry) process which negates all that is not self, and that negation has the convictional force of renunciation to it. Make no mistake, this is not an action, in the sense that you are dismissing action as a route to Self-knowledge (which is agreed). Sankara’s dismissal of action is literally meant, because a jnani has nothing to achieve.

    (2) This is a logical position if you believe that self-knowledge is (positively) accumulated through sruti vichara – then why the need for sadhana of viveka (discrimination of the not-self) and vairagya (renunciation / detachment from the non-self), if all that we are talking about is knowledge.

    We have, some time ago, discussed sadhana chatustya and the difference between a jnani and jivanmukta. At that stage, I pointed out quotes from BG and BSB that clearly state that jivamukti follows immediately from Jnana. The concept that one can have self-knowledge and still be miserable does not hold.

    (3) No mind / samadhi is I think what we have been discussing in all these pages. If one has pursued the process of ‘not this, not this’, and literally rejected / renounced these, then it is clear to me (as it must be to you), that there will be little need for thoughts. Most of our thoughts are just senseless chatter about “me” – these are not necessary to live. This is the import of Shishya’s JK article that he linked to in Ramesam’s latest post.

    Your own quotes from Sankara in this article refer uncompromisingly to an “unperturbed mind”, “drive away all desires that crop up in the mind”, and a “pure mind”. What could a “pure mind” be, other than one which has lost its usual proclivity to frolic with desires and fears about “me”; and therefore a pure mind is essentially thought-free, and as JK would say, without the conditioning of the past.

    (4) “Mithya is not a problem – it is useful”. Sorry? So why does Sankara, in your own quote, talk about “the end of all the misery of mundane existence”, and talk elsewhere, quite extensively, about renouncing the world, and Yajnavalkya wants to become a wandering monk in the forest. This is just book knowledge that Dayananda is peddling for the mass market, not liberation.

    (5) Two lifestyles is all encompassing really isn’t it? You can’t go wrong with that, because it covers all of us, and doesn’t really require us to do anything but go to study vedanta with a Dayananda certified teacher. Sankara nowhere talks about two lifestyles. He is uncompromising in prescribing a renunciate lifestyle; he makes a concession for some exceptions such as Janaka, who is acting for the sake of the world; but by and large he rejects action all together.

    It seems to me that Dayananda has worked out a rather mundane interpretation of Sankara’s advaita and of moksha which can be gained from pure sruti knowledge (which he is clearly well versed in) and being pedantic about Sanskrit definitions. It is like missing the forest for the trees, or examining the finger, rather than the direction in which it is pointing.

    Further, this book knowledge can be gained whilst continuing one’s lifestyle. And if, as a result of this book knowledge and jnana certificate, one still does not feel the peace of a jivanmukta, this can be neatly explained by the palliative that one is a jnani, but one still has to complete his sadhana chatustya.

    As I have said previously, this is a logical route for building a global market for your education business, with a jnana certification at the end . . . But not for understanding the import of advaita.

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Venkat,

    I’m afraid I don’t have the time (or patience) to argue any more. Sanskrit is an almost infinitely subtle language. The scriptures are often ambiguous and sometimes even contradictory. This is why we are supposed to have a ‘qualified, sampradAya guru’ to teach us: someone who can speak Sanskrit fluently, who knows the scriptures off by heart, to whom has been passed on all of the particular prakriyA-s for explaining them, who has studied all of the commentaries by the various RRiShi-s, compared and contrasted them and arrived at logical, reasonable and authentic conclusions.

    These are the reasons why I prefer to place my faith in a Dayananda rather than a Venkat. In this, I am also following Gaudapada’s guidance in mANDUkya kArikA 3.23: “That alone is the true view which is the ascertained view of the shruti and is also corroborated by reason and not the other.” No disrespect intended here at all, but I am sure you can see the logic.

    Best wishes,

  3. Venkat wrote (18.1.19) “Sankara has said that there can be no positive knowledge of Brahman; all that can happen is the removal of ignorance, which is ‘not this, not this’”. That is correct, but there is the other fundamental method in Advaita Vedanta: adhyaropa-apavada, and this has to do with the mind and with intuition, anubhava, which no one seems to be mentioning lately (actually, Dennis has just produced many quotations from shruti on ‘knowledge of brahman’ – brahmavidya, which is cogent with what follows). What this means is that the mind can be transformed at the moment of that intuition. This is also the teaching of SSSS, as well as, certainly, that of Shankara.:

    ‘… the Mind is completely pervaded by Atman alone (manifested) in our intuitive experience to help realize that ‘Everything is Atman alone’… there is no question of cognizing anything whatsoever by objectifying it, and hence the Mind becomes no-Mind (quoting Karika 3-32).

    ‘When this absolute truth is Intuited by us, then it is said that ‘He has attained, acquired Atmanubhava (Intuitive experience of the Self as Being-Consciousness-Bliss).—‘The Basic Tenets of Shankara Vedanta’ (SSSS).

    You will see that the above is not just neti-neti, that realization is something very positive, a world-transforming event as seen from vyavahara p.o.v.

  4. Martin says above at the end of his first paragraph:

    “[…] What this means is that the mind can be transformed at the moment of that intuition […]”.

    That is – “seeing/being/knowing” – is a dynamic process and is always in the active present, experiencing, not experience.

    It is neither “positive”, nor “negative” IMHO.

  5. Martin, adhyaropa-apavada is superimposition but still followed by negation. The easiest perhaps to understand is being told that one is purely the witness to all that is experienced, to develop a sense of detachment and observation, and then this witness is negated too.

    Shishya, what I mean by “positive” knowledge is the accumulation of concepts, or in this case a conceptual system, that says ‘thou art Brahman’, and this is regarded as jnana. Whereas by “negative”, I meant the removal of our many years of conditioning, assumptions, etc – what JK referred to as ‘dying everyday’, not accumulating. And what Maharishi means by the inquiry ‘who am I?’, whenever a habitual thought / desire / fear arises. It is the investigation to see whether my habitual assumption of a me is true.

    “To objectify the ‘I’-sense the only method is through discrimination, and with deep concentration when one says there is ‘I’-sense, then automatically ha takes his stand in his true nature of the Self, who is the Witness of the ego or ‘I’-sense. There is no need of any effort to take a stand in the true nature of the Self, because that is one’s own nature of Being and always he is That. Due to his wrong identification with not-selves like the ego etc., one misconceives that ‘I am so and so’. By adopting this process of discrimination with a concentrated mind according
    to this ‘Adhyatma Yoga’, as described here, one ceases his identification with the ego and all the rest.” – SSSS

    “The dispelling of ignorance is all-important, not the acquisition of knowledge, because the dispelling of ignorance is negative while knowledge is positive. And, a man who is capable of thinking negatively has the highest capacity for thinking. The mind which can dispel ignorance and not accumulate knowledge such a mind is an innocent mind, and only the innocent mind can discover that which is beyond measure.: – J Krishnamurti

    “When all that you are not – namely the body, senses and mind – have been eliminated from you, you alone remain over as the background – Consciousness and Peace. This is nothing short of Self-realisation. Repeat the same vicara for some time. This will help you to stand established in your Real nature.” – Sri Atmananda

    “You must watch for the I, egoism, in every one of your acts and eliminate it, otherwise Jnan is impossible.” – V S Iyer

    “In advanced Vedanta, we use neti, neti, which is the negating of every thought or idea that can possibly arise. “Neti” means “don’t think”. It is not a new thought to be added. All thoughts are useless in truth. Find something uncontradictable in Absolute silence where ideas there are none. ” – V S Iyer

    “You learn either by proximity or by investigation. Rare are the people who are lucky to find somebody worthy of trust and love. Most must take the hard way, the way of intelligence and understanding, of discrimination and detachment (viveka-vairagya). You already have all the experience you need. You need not gather more, rather you must go beyond experience . . . Truth gives no advantage. Your very effort to formulate truth denies it, because it cannot be contained in words. Truth can be expressed only by the denial of the false – in action. For this you must see the false as false (viveka) and reject it (vairagya). Renunciation of the false is liberating and energizing. It lays open the road to perfection.” – Nisargadatta

    “Withdrawal, aloofness, letting go is death. To live fully, death is essential; every ending makes a new beginning.” – Nisargadatta

    “To see reality is as simple as to see one’s face in a mirror. Only the mirror must be clear and true. A quiet mind, undistorted by desires and fears, free from ideas and opinions, clear on all the levels, is needed to reflect the reality. Be clear and quiet, alert and detached, all else will happen by itself. ” – Nisargadatta

    “Peace is your natural state. It is the mind that obstructs the natural state. Your Vichara has been made only in the mind. Investigate what the mind is, and it will disappear. There is no such thing as mind apart from thought. Nevertheless, because of the emergence of thought, you surmise something from which it starts and term that the mind. When you probe to see what it is, you find there is really no such thing as mind. When the mind has thus vanished, you realise eternal Peace.” – Ramana Maharishi

    “Just to repeat “I am not the body” and then indulge in all the sensual pleasures is another trick of the mind.” – Ramana Maharishi

    “Only that man has desires who identifies himself with the body. But the sage has become free from the thought ‘I am the body’. The sage looks upon his own body as if it were the body of another. ” – Ramana Maharishi

  6. Venkat,

    You had asked me to provide quotations from Shankara to support Swami D’s interpretation of the scriptures (with which I concur). I did do this.

    You now provide lots of quotations from non-saMpradAya teachers to refute those. If there is to be any meanigful correlation, could you please supply contrary quotations from Shankara only. Or – an alternative way of looking at it – could you supply Shankara quotations to support the views of these non-saMpradAya teachers.

    Best wishes,

  7. Hi Dennis

    My response was specifically to Shishya’s comment, not to you as you have already indicated that you did not wish to argue any further. I am fully aware that you would not be interested in these others.


  8. Yes – in all probablility I will not comment further. However, my point stands. You cannot ask for authentic Shankara quotations to justify my comments and then provide non-Shankara quotations to support your own. I made it clear to Anon, that JK teaching was not welcome at the site. None of the sources that you quote were sampradAya teachers.

  9. Dennis

    Firstly, I commented in detail on your quotes, and pointed out that they did not relate to the point I was making, and if anything a number of your quotes supported my point. You basically did not respond to any of the points, made clear that you do not wish to pursue a discussion on this, and that my views were irrelevant and uninformed. Fair enough.

    Secondly, I have provided a number of quotes from Sankara to support my point of negation leading to ‘no mind’. Please go back and revisit the quotes in the various samadhi articles that I have already posted.

    Thirdly, with respect to ‘sampradaya teachers’, of my 11 quotes:
    – 3 were from Ramana Maharshi, who your Swami P has claimed is a ‘traditional acharya’ (I have provided the reference to that before)
    – 1 was from SSSS who presumably does qualify?
    – 3 were from Nisargadatta and 1 from Atmananda, both of whom are listed as “traditional and quasi traditional” and “direct path” teachers respectively, on the teachers tab of this website, so presumably ok to reference them?
    – 2 were from VS Iyer who received direct instruction from a Sankaracharya of Sringeri and who was as an authority on Advaita Vedanta

    So only a single JK quote does not qualify – though you yourself have penned articles on western philosophers on this site to compare and contrast to advaita!

  10. Dennis,

    You asked for quotes from Sankara or traditional teachers, to rebut the Dayanada quote in contention:
    “Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa. This is entirely different from a state wherein there is absence of thoughts . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it.”

    From SSSS’ Essays on Vedanta, p144:

    “No one who has not desisted from bad conduct, NO ONE WHO HAS NOT RESTRAINED HIS MIND, and NO ONE WHO HAS NOT ACHIEVED ONEPOINTEDNESS OF MIND, and no one whose mind is not absorbed (in the Atman), can ever reach this Atman through intuition.” Ka.2-24.
    This is the graduated course of discipline set forth for those who would retrace their steps back to Atman. First of all one has to control the senses and restrain
    them from fleeting about aimlessly. Then the mind has to be brought back from fluttering in all directions. The third step is to make the mind single pointed and direct it exclusively towards Atman. The last step is to DISSOLVE the mind into Atman

    From SSSS’ Basic Tenets of Sankara’s Vedanta:

    Those who have acquired through incessant practice of Jnanasadhanas (spiritual disciplines attuned to Intuitive Knowledge of the Absolute Reality) like Amanitwa (non-egoism), Adambhitwa (absence of vanity) etc. – which are enumerated in Bhagavad gita 13 – 7 to 11 to such qualified people invariably this jnana accrues. Although the Vedic (Upanishadic) sentence of -‘That Brahman alone thou art’ – is instructing about Paramartha (the Absolute Reality) which eternally exists, we have not acquired or earned the proper qualification of discerning its true meaning by testing it against our Anubhava (Intuitive Experience). Atmanubhava (i.e. the Intuitive Experience of the Self, the Absolute Reality) is not a commodity that is available in any grocer’s shop ; because of the reason that It is of the very essence of Intuition, WE HAVE TO PERFORCE GIVE UP EVERYTHING ELSE AND HAVE TO EARN IT DESERVEDLY THROUGH ANUBHAVA ALONE.

    From p151:
    If we concentrate our Mind or make it one-pointed in order to cognize (Intuit) as to how our Atmaswarupa exists in Sushupti (deep sleep), then it (i.e. the Mind) has to perforce become just like that Atman alone ; to wit, IT HAS INVARIABLY TO GIVE UP, DISCARD ITS VERY MIND-NESS. If the Mind endeavours to cognize any object whatsoever, it has invariably to assume the vritti (concept) which is the same as that of the object, is it not ? In the present case, BECAUSE OF THE REASON THAT ATMAN DOES NOT HAVE ANY FORM OR SHAPE WHATSOEVER, TO SAY THAT THE MIND BECOMES JUST LIKE ATMAN MEANS IT HAS INVARIABLY TO BECOME NIRAKARA (FORMLESS) ALONE. With regard to the Mind which contemplates upon the Self alone, Shri Sankaracharya has written in his Gita Bhashya 6-26: ‘The Mind of a person, who contemplates thus, gets stilled (attains tranquillity) in Atman alone.’

    From p.152:

    That very Chaitanyaswarupa exists in all states like Jagrat (waking), Svapna (dream). When the Antahkarana Vrtti (mental concept) tries to cognize (Intuit) that Paramatmaswarupa, that Vrtti itself becomes one with Brahman alone. There is no sense or meaning whatsoever in the statement of some Vedantins that : ‘The Mind assumes a vritti of the shape or form of Atman’. For, Atman does not have any form or shape whatsoever. As a matter of concession, for name-sake, we may say that when by means of Dhyanayoga the Mind merges in Atman – this itself may be called – Atmakara Vritti (the mental concept of the shape or form of the Self). We should discern that – ‘The Buddhi (intellect) becoming clear, pure and subtle just like Atman’ – is itself expressed as ‘assuming or acquiring Atmakara’. Although by virtue of Sarikhya Vicharakrama (method or system of Intuitive deliberation) all the Anatman (not Self) which is super-imposed (Adhyaropita). upon the Self is sublated, falsified, and (further) by means of Dhyana Yoga (Intuitive Contemplation on the Self as It really is) IF ALL THE FUNCTIONS OF THE SENSES, THE MIND ETC. HAVE CEASED AND THE MIND BECOMES QUIESCENT IN ATMAN ALONE, the Atmanubhava (Intuitive Experience of Pure Consciousness as the Self) becomes Abhivyakta (instantaneously, spontaneously manifested).

    I think that is a fairly clear rebuttal.

  11. Dear Venkat,

    I can see that it is not reasonable, as far as our readers are concerned, for me to leave the discussion unresolved. I also do not like to abandon it on what might be perceived as an acrimonious note. The fact that we still appear to be in dispute does not mean that we are no longer on speaking terms (I hope). Or that the police would have to be notified if we might accidentally meet in the street.

    Without reading through all of the material again (not sure if I could face it), there are two issues that I think are relevant:

    1) The idea that ‘neti, neti’ is effectively THE technique for gaining enlightenment – reject everything and what we are left with is the reality of brahman. Regarding this stance, let me clarify my position a little. I will then indicate what might be a way of reconciling our views on this first issue.

    Hitherto, my understanding of the ‘neti, neti method’ is that it is just one of the many prakriyA-s put forward by Advaita scriptures in the hope that it will trigger the ‘final understanding’ in the seeker. I agree that it is somewhat more significant than most in that realizing that you are not the body-mind is rather fundamental. But it seems to me that there is much more to Advaita than this (e.g. that the world is mithyA and reality is non-dual), and that this particular prakriyA will not tell you about those. This ‘neti’ aspect is also something that you can start doing as part of karma yoga before you get on to the more ‘difficult’ stuff of j~nAna yoga.

    I have just been doing yet another trawl through potential references and come up with a couple. This first one is by AchArya Sadananda from the Advaitin group in 1997, but it seems to state very well what is traditionally meant by ‘net, neti’ as far as thoughts are concerned. Note that I haven’t edited this, so you will have to excuse his unfortunate habit of trying to type as fast as he thinks, and not going back to correct errors:


    “Mind and intellect which are thoughts are like thought waves in the sea of consciousness. Since every thought is known that means every thought is in my consciousness. Otherwise I will not be conscious of the thought. Since the world is nothing but objects which are thoughts in the mind, the consciousness engulfs all the thoughts, and hence the whole world – otherwise I can not say this is the world – That is I am conscious of the world – implies that the world is in my consciousness. Hence the body, mind and intellect are all in my consciousness.

    “Neti and neti has to be understood correctly- It is negation of my notions that I am the mind or I am the intellect or I am the body. I am the consciousness that illumines this body, mind and intellect. They are in me and I am not in them, in the sense their modifications etc. do not belong to me. Just as Gold declaring I am not the ring not the necklace not the bangle, they are forms – naama, ruupa and Guna projected on me. I support all of them since they are in me but I am not in them in the sense the limitations of the ring, bangle etc. do not belong to me.

    “Hence it is not total negation of the mind, intellect or body or even the world. What is negated is the names and forms projected as not real – The substratum that supports all that is the sat chit ananda that I am. Hence the Goudapaada’s statement.

    It like sea declaring I am not this small wave or that big wave. I am that water that pervades all the waves, yet different from the waves. Water does not become a wave. Creation is not a parinaama or transformation. It is adhyaasa or superimposition. Just as Gold it was, gold it is even when we call it as a ring or necklace or bangle and gold it shall be even the ring etc. are melted. Gold does not become ring. The names and forms are superimposition on the gold.

    “Same way the creation is superimposition on Brahman which is sat and chit and ananda. Neti and neti is only negation of the notions in the mind that names and forms are real. It is to realize that I am the total consciousness that supports all these names and forms including these notions. Yet I am beyond the names, forms and the notions. I am in them but they are not in me.

    “Please refer to BG 9th ch. slokas 4 and 5 – I think. Krishna explains this beautifully. I pervade this entire universe, all beings are in me but I am not in them.

    “There is no total negation of the mind. Mind with notions is negated.
    What remains is the pure consciousness. Just as if I look at a wave, and forgetting it is nothing but water, I can get carried away with the names and forms. If I shift my attention from the wave to the contents of the wave, I realize it is nothing but water. From water the waves raise, by water they are sustained and into water they merge.”

    But this can only be the first step! So yes, you have to recognize that you are not the gross, subtle and causal bodies but you also have to discover what you really are! You cannot do only the negation aspect or you will end up thinking you are nothing. You need the other prakriyA-s of traditional Advaita to teach you – you cannot find these out for yourself. Perception and inference will never tell you that the reality is non-dual, that therefore the word is not itself real, and that you yourself are actually this non-dual Consciousness.

    John Grimes, in his book ‘An Advaita Perspective on Language’ says that there are “at least six different methods by which to convey ‘self-knowledge’ linguistically”. He describes these in some detail:

    a) adhyAropa-apavAda.
    b) via negative – neti, neti. This “goes hand in hand with the above”.
    c) metaphor and rhetoric (brahman through lakShaNa).
    d) “direct hearing of purportful Scripture”.
    e) “use of etymology” e.g. explaining derivation of word ‘brahman’.
    f) silence.

    William Cenkner, in his book ‘A Tradition of Teachers: Sankara and the Jagadgurus Today’ speaks of the method used by Shankara. He first refers to a ‘definition’ by V. H. Date in his book on the Brahmasutra bhAShya, ‘Vedanta Explained’:

    “7. Method of assertion through negation.

    “The method which Sri Shankara appears to have recommended in the discovery of this anubhava is mainly the negative one of thoughtfully eliminating one after another every feature which lacks reality.’I am’, says he, ‘neither the elements, nor the body, nor the senses, the mind, the intellect, the ahaMkAra, etc.’. But as this does not end in vacuum, but in plentitude, he recommends also the positive method of thoughtfully asserting that one is nothing else but Sat Chit and Ananda.

    “Combining the negative and positive aspects, we may call the method as the method of ‘ Assertion through negation. Or we may prefer to call it the method of viveka-pralaya. It is the method by which the wise man deliberately and consciously dissolves everything including his own egoism in the one reality of Brahman. This is opposed to prakRRiti-pralaya where everything becomes dissolved for some time, naturally and without anybody’s effort. At the end of this viveka-pralaya the Brahmavadin becomes nothing else but the nirguNa or the nirupAdhika Brahman, as the sage Vamadeva was known to be; or paradoxically, he becomes verily the Atman of all and is therefore called the saguNa or the sopAdhika Brahman. All the same, the method is the unique, practical method of the Brahma-vidyA as opposed to the method of avidyA which we may call as the method of assertion through egoism.”

    Cenkner then goes on to explain:

    “In addition to following the traditional method of self-inquiry through teaching the classical axioms and the definitions of Brahman and through a probing dialectic, Shankara continues the Vedanta lineage by employing an equally traditional method referred to as ‘assertion through negation’. He advises the use of negation in self-analysis, that is the negation of every factor progressively experienced and understood that lacks absolute and perduring reality. At the same time a positive assertion is made by the student affirming his oneness with Brahman. Discrimination (viveka) is to assert positively what one is, ‘I am Brahman’, and at the same time to deny what one is not, ‘not this, not this’. The student denies through statements of negation an identity with the ephemeral nature of all microcosmic and macrocosmic objects; through positive statements, he identifies with the perduring nature of all beings and possibly in a final state with eternal being. This method is employed in Shankara’s examination of the states of consciousness and in the examination of the coverings of the Self that are taken up for analysis in typical Upanishadic self-inquiry.” (I looked up ‘perduring’ on Wikipedia and it says: “Perdurantism or perdurance theory is a philosophical theory of persistence and identity.”)

    So the bottom line is that the ‘negation’ method on its own will not work, because you end up with the conclusion that you are ‘nothing’; and simply acquiring knowledge about who you are on its own will not work, unless you have previously eliminated the notions that you are body, mind, intellect, ahaMkAra. Neither approach will work without other – both are need.

    Can we agree on this? Are we friends again? 😉

    2) The second aspect upon which (I believe) we disagree concerns the ontological status of mind post-enlightenment. I think you follow Ramana’s alleged assertion that we have to somehow destroy the mind and that, afterwards, we are one with Brahman and maybe do not even see the world as separate any more.

    As you presumably know, I do not agree with any of this. I don’t (yet) know exactly where the ideas originated (or even if anyone knows) but I think that Vivekananda may also be at fault with his conflation of Advaita and Yoga philosophies. However, I will endeavor to find out more! Meanwhile, did you ever read my article on manonAsha. I just discovered it is over 6 years since I posted it! Maybe you could have a read of that and let me know what you think.

    Best wishes,

    • Dennis’s point 2 towards the end…
      2) The second aspect upon which (I believe) we disagree concerns the ontological status of mind post-enlightenment. I think you follow Ramana’s alleged assertion that we have to somehow destroy the mind and that, afterwards, we are one with Brahman and maybe do not even see the world as separate any more.
      Ramana Smriti, 1980 page 150…Shantamma Reminiscence
      A visitor while taking leave of Bhagavan expressed a wish
      that Bhagavan should keep him in mind as he was going very
      far away and would probably not come back to the Ashram.

      Bhagavan replied:
      A jnani has no mind. How can one without a mind remember
      or even think? This man goes somewhere and I have to go
      there and look after him? Can I keep on remembering all
      these prayers? Well, I shall transmit your prayer to the Lord
      of the Universe. He will look after you. It is his business.

      It is very difficult to agree with everything a jnani says; I was sorely troubled by the passage above. Finally, I resorted to faith, reverence, devotion, shraddha to the degree possible for me. But if I had been in Shantamma’s place I would have involuntarily sniggered and been admonished, I am sure. But there is deeper meaning in this and I am not sure what it is…

  12. Dear Dennis

    Firstly, thank you for your note. I have always taken our exchanges in the spirit of heated, passionate discussion – in the confidence that we would both be detached from any personal antipathy – and knowing that I would progress my understanding as a result of it (even if I didn’t agree with you 🙂 ).

    I of course do not rate Sadananda and his opinions – he is in the Dayananda school, and comes across with an air of affectation. As you know, my view of this crew is that they have come up with an intellectual structure, that admittedly can be supported by a very narrow reading of Sankara, without taking account of the “mystical” elements of his writing.

    As far as positive knowledge of Braham is required in addition to negation – I think this is not a proper reading of Sankara. All the ‘positive’ statements are superimpositions to provide explanations to a restless mind. But these superimpositions also have to be negated. I can say it no better than repeating Sankara’s unambiguous comment from Brhad Up 4.5.15:

    “The self is the last word of it all, arrived at by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and nothing else is perceived either through reasoning or through scriptural statement, therefore the knowledge of this self by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and the renunciation of everything are the only means of attaining immortality”

    That is the essence and beauty of Yajnavalkya’s teaching to Maitreyi. And the entire gist of Upadesa Sahashri is very much on negation. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta and JK all emphasised this as well.

    Furthermore I would highlight the following passage from my SSSS quote above, which makes it clear that there cannot be any form of positive knowledge of Brahman:

    “There is no sense or meaning whatsoever in the statement of some Vedantins that : ‘The Mind assumes a vritti of the shape or form of Atman’. For, Atman does not have any form or shape whatsoever. As a matter of concession, for name-sake, we may say that when by means of Dhyanayoga the Mind merges in Atman – this itself may be called – Atmakara Vritti (the mental concept of the shape or form of the Self). We should discern that – ‘The Buddhi (intellect) becoming clear, pure and subtle just like Atman’ – is itself expressed as ‘assuming or acquiring Atmakara’.”

    This leads on to your second point about the mind dissolving post-realisation. Clearly SSSS essentially makes this point in the quotes I have set out in the previous comment, Perhaps the best quote from Sankara (and there are many) is from Brhad Up 2.4.12:

    “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; so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs?”

    Sankara in this passage makes is clear that liberation is not about a vyavaharika life going on, whilst having some knowledge in the mind of paramarthika reality. The mind associated with the ego is no more, and therefore the body-mind of a jnani is blown about like a dry leaf, living by what comes to him by chance, and having nothing more to achieve. This thrust of BG and Mandukyakarika is unmissable, let alone that of Ashtavakra Gita, and Ramana Maharishi.

    With respect to Swami Vivekananda, I presume the same crew that try to disparage Maharishi’s “who am I?”, have also sought to do the same with Vivekanada. Having read some (by no means all) of Vivekananda, he does not seem to me to be advocating yogic samadhi in the sense that we have been discussing. The only sense in which he can be described as a “Neo-vedantin” is in that he has emphasised karma yoga, selfless service, though never implying it is a substitute for jnana as a means to realisation. Those who disparage him, do a huge disservice to a great man, in whose shadow they are not worthy to tread.

    With best wishes,


  13. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for that clarification. And I totally agree that we can disagree without rancour. This is exactly the spirit of correct Vedantic discussion.

    This topic is actually very timely. I am in the early stages of preparing a 2nd edition of ‘Back to the Truth’ and was currently in the process of amending Chapter 1, adding clarification, new extracts etc. And I discovered that I am effectively putting forward exactly the same scenario as yourself! Namely, that one listens to scriptures etc. to gain ‘intellectual understanding’ and then goes away to have some sort of anubhava to ‘turn’ this into proper realization! The reason for this, I believe, is that I was far more influenced at that time by modern teachers than by traditional. And it seem clear that it is principally modern teachers who have been propagating this misunderstanding.

    So, I am going to have to rewrite this chapter completely. In order to do so, I will have to martial my facts well if I am to convince readers such as yourself. (Actually, I’m not sure you CAN be convinced – you may be too far gone… ;-)) So, if you can wait a few weeks, I hope to come back with arguments and evidence!

    Meanwhile, however, can you please explain how it can be that teachers such as Shankara and Ramana (who I think everyone will agree were enlightened, and therefore mindless according to you) could continue to teach, organize the setting up of ashrams etc., interact with seekers, disciples etc., eat, speak, walk about, read newspapers…

    In doing so, I presume you will answer Shishya’s question also. I agree with him that ‘there must be some deeper meaning’!

    Best wishes,

  14. Hi Dennis,

    Firstly, I note that you have not addressed the point made by SSSS with respect to
    “There is no sense or meaning whatsoever in the statement of some Vedantins that : ‘The Mind assumes a vritti of the shape or form of Atman’”

    Secondly, I have actually addressed your question about no-mind in one of the earlier comments. Anyway, I’ll have another go.

    Your dismissal is simply one of reductio ad absurdum. You rush to pen the same, tired dismissal. What you don’t do, is to suspend judgement, and take the statements by Sankara, SSSS, Ramana, et al at face value and figure out what they could all be pointing to . . . how they could be true.

    The key lies in BG 2.55 et seq, which describe a jnani. Consider BG 2.71:
    That man attains peace who, after rejecting all desires, moves about free from hankering, without the idea of me and mine, and devoid of pride.

    Sankara’s comment: “After rejecting all desires, wanders about making efforts only for maintaining the body; free from hankering, becoming free from any longing even for the maintenance of the body”

    Isn’t it clear that if the usual desires, fears, ambitions, selfishness of the mind have been eradicated through self-knowledge, what is left? It is such thoughts which take up most of our “thinking”. If you are choicelessly aware of your thoughts, you will see that most thinking is simply the mind running away in its fantasies / nightmares. Funnily enough if you have sufficient attentiveness, these thoughts naturally attenuate. And without them, the mind is essentially empty. The thoughts required to eat, drink, walk, are minimal, essentially automatic, it is what ch’an calls “chop wood, carry water”. And as Sankara notes, even the longing to maintain the body would no longer be strong.

    This is what is meant by the metaphor of a dry leaf being blown in the wind. This is what is meany by living by what comes by chance. This is why Sankara essentially says that a monastic existence is an inevitable precursor and consequence of realisation. What else is there to achieve or do? For one who has disidentified with the body-mind, what does it matter what subsequently “happens” to it?

    This of course is frightening to us / our minds, so we generate dismissive thoughts about how could we possibly function without thoughts . . . Rather than actually investigate into it.

    I am not sure why you or Shishya are troubled by Bhagavan’s quote. Shantamma’s prayer is a meaningless one, made out of ignorance, duality, the idea of a “me” and “you, Bhagavan”.

  15. Hi Venkat,

    You now seem to be almost agreeing with me! Of course the j~nAnI’s mind continues so that he/she can operate in the world. Of course, having realized that reality is non-dual, that there are no ‘others’ (things or people) in reality, the j~nAnI is not going to have desires. Desire, after all, is the idea that something other can provide the ‘completeness’ that we crave. No ‘others’, no ‘desires. But, although desires are thoughts, thoughts are not only desires! Please provide a Shankara reference where he says that a j~nAnI no longer has a memory!! I think that Ramana was just being bolshie; he must have occasionally got frustrated with all these people asking stupid questions. He must have sometimes forgot that someone was always within earshot, writing down everything he said…

    I think the idea of akhANDAkAra vRRitti was connected to the basic idea of perception in those pre-scientific days – that the mind ‘goes out’ to an object and assumes its form so that we can ‘know’ it. On Realization, it is known that there are no ‘others’, that reality is ‘undivided’. Consequently the thought in the mind, too, ‘becomes’ undivided. If you are happy with understanding manonASha in a non-literal sense, I’m sure you can accept this also!

    As I said in my last post, I will post something in a few weeks to consolidate all of this, after I have rewritten Chapter 1 of BttT.

    Best wishes,

  16. Hi Dennis,

    1. May I request you to please clarify to us how exactly you define the word “jnAni” and the scriptural reference based on which that definition is derived.

    2. Will you please let us also know the Upanishadic mantra and or Shankara bhAShya wherein it is stated that a jnAni has a memory.


  17. Hi Ramesam,

    Not sure what you are getting at here. The definition is in the Sanskrit – a j~nAnI is one who has j~nAnam – Self knowledge.

    I doubt that there is such a mantra. Why would there be? That was my point in asking Venkat for a reference to where Shankara says a j~nAnI does NOT have one. I don’t expect there is one where Shankara says a j~nAnI has a head, senses, manas, buddhi etc. either. There is simply no reason to imagine otherwise. Both seeker and j~nAnI are human beings from the vyAvahArika perspective. And both are Brahman from the pAramArthika standpoint. The j~nAnI knows this; the seeker doesn’t.

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks Dennis.

      As you are well aware, there have been many discussions on the questions of “Who is a jnAni?” and “Does a jnAni have a mind?” at several of the Advaita fora.

      Many of these debates will become unnecessary if one up front defines one’s own understanding of the terms clearly in his/her writings and also cite the specific reference followed by him/her in arriving at such an understanding.

      A mere grammatical derivation like one who has jnAna (Self-knowledge) is a jnAni is not what I had in mind because it will only lead to the next question of what constitutes Self-knowledge according to one’s own understanding/definition.

      The next clarification that may be needed is the “level” of the jnAni on the Knowledge Path one is talking about. We know that there are gradations because Shankara too indicated the possibility of such variations in the jnAnis from his usage of comparative suffix words like “variShta” in one of his bhAShya-s. Later followers of Shankara too accepted these level differences in the jnAnis.

      Finally, the “model” adopted too becomes important in weaving a narrative coherently. {I am glad you yourself in this Post of yours answered your question to me at another thread about there being models other than the superimposition-sublation in teaching Advaita.}


      • I should rather modify one sentence in my comment above to make better sense.

        Instead of :
        “… it will only lead to the next question of what constitutes Self-knowledge according to one’s own understanding/definition.”

        It should read:
        “… it will only lead to the next question of what does it specifically mean to say “to have” Self-knowledge according to one’s own understanding/definition.”

  18. All –

    To a one-year old infant, we pioint to a dog and say “This is a dog”. Then onwards, whenever the infant sees any other dog, it is able to say “This is a dog” and when it sees a cat, it does not know it is a cat but correctly knows ‘it is not a dog’.

    To a five-year old child, we point to an apple and say “This is a fruit”. But when it is shown a banana it always incorrectly concludes “This is not a fruit”.

    We find the same situation when we mechanically read and quote the scriptural statements .. without taking into consideration who is making those statements and why.


  19. From Venkat ‘s two previous responses to Dennis:

    “This leads on to your second point about the mind dissolving post-realisation. Clearly SSSS essentially makes this point in the quotes I have set out in the previous comment, Perhaps the best quote from Sankara (and there are many) is from Brhad Up 2.4.12:

    “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; so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs?”

    “Sankara’s comment: “After rejecting all desires, wanders about making efforts only for maintaining the body; free from hankering, becoming free from any longing even for the maintenance of the body”

    My best interpretation/understanding of what RM said is to replace the word “mind” in his quote with the word “motive” which I have done below.

    “Bhagavan replied:
    A jnani has no MOTIVE. How can one without a MOTIVE remember or even think? This man goes somewhere and I have to go there and look after him? Can I keep on remembering all these prayers? Well, I shall transmit your prayer to the Lord
    of the Universe. He will look after you. It is his business.”

  20. I liked a quote from Shishya’s earlier post ‘I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are impossible.
    William James’.

    When the Upanishad says .. “Rishi Vamadeva knew, even while he was still in his mother’s womb that he was indeed Manu, he was indeed the Sun”, what are we to make of it ? :-))

  21. Shishya,

    I’d agree – as you know JK used to talk about the death of psychological memory, but not the functional memory. With the death of psychological memory, there can be no image of oneself, and no need for any purposeful intentions.


    “The Guru is basically without desire. He sees what happens, but feels no urge to interfere. He makes no choices, takes no decisions. As pure witness, he watches what is going on and remains unaffected. Nothing in particular affects him, or, what comes to the same, the entire universe affects him in equal measure.”

    “Having understood that there can never be any individual entity with independent choice of action, then how could ‘you’ entertain any intentions? Then you become perfectly aligned with whatever happens, accepting events without any feeling of either achievement or frustration. Such living would then be non-volitional living an absence of doing and deliberate non-doing, going through your allotted span of life wanting nothing and avoiding nothing, free of conceptualising and objectivising. Then, when this phenomenal life disappears in due course it leaves you in absolute presence.”

    Or, more concisely, Ramesam’s quote from Vasishta:
    “Meditation is useless without detachment. Meditation is meaningless with detachment. Utter detachment is the most fundamental thing of all for Nirvana.”

  22. Hi Venkat,

    I fully agree with your succinct and unambiguous summarization of the apodeictic Advaita message.

    I also like the way you tie it up with the views expressed by well-recognized diverse stalwart philosophers, be it Ramana, Nisargadatta, JK, SSSS, Shankara and others.

    And thanks also for bringing back the quotes from JK.
    What you say is in full congruence with the spirit of what is said at this site in its “About” column – The Vision of Advaita Vision, particularly items # 3 to 6. Late Peter Bonnici was a strong pillar of that vision.

    I flinched in a way when Dennis banned reference to JK at this site.
    Barring some seeker who insists on and on for years and years his inconsistent views with totally deaf ears to what others say and banning JK philosophy are not comparable, IMHO. But we yield to Dennis as he is the owner and also bears all the ensuing toil of financial and other maintenance burdens.

    Coming to the specific point of giving importance to “detachment and dispassion” in Advaita, Shankara too expresses it in no uncertain terms at many places in his bhAShya-s.

    For example, even after knowing the Knowledge of Self, “vairAGya” is necessary as Shankara says in brihadAraNyaka.

    [But before that, I have to say that there is a difference between “having Self-knowledge” and KNOWING It. Merely having the Self-knowledge is objectification of the Self. In knowing the Self, the Seeker is identical with (the same as) the Self.]

    Commenting on the mantra धीरो विज्ञाय प्रज्ञां कुर्वीत ब्राह्मणः (4.4.21, brihadAraNyaka), Shankara says that “The intelligent aspirant after Brahman, knowing about this kind of Self alone, from the instructions of a teacher and from the scriptures, should attain intuitive knowledge of what has been taught by the teacher
    and the scriptures, so as to put an end to all questioning i.e. practice the means of this knowledge, viz. renunciation, calmness, self-control, withdrawal of the
    senses, fortitude and concentration.”
    — Translation of Swami Madhavananda
    Please note the word “renunciation” at the very top in praxis.


  23. Dear Ramesam

    I really appreciate your kind words that suggest my understanding is on the right track.

    Thank you.


  24. Just to clarify: my ‘banning’ of JK was in the sense of using what he said as in any way ‘authoritative’ and referring to his quotes to refute traditional teaching. The same applies to Nisargadatta and Ramana if it comes to that. Peter and I carefully worded the ‘About’ page for the site so as to emphasize that all views were welcome, as are all visitors, irrespective of which teacher they presently ‘support’. But, when it comes to divergences of opinion, and a ‘deciding’ view is required, the source to which we defer is Shankara and the sampradAya lineages.

    Incidentally, Ramesam, I re-read your sentence about ‘barring some seeker’ several times but did not really understand what you were saying, Might you rephrase it, please?

    Best wishes,

    As I have already noted, I will write further on my views regarding the topic of ‘knowledge versus experience’ in due course. Fot those who cannot wait, however, I suggest that you read Sureshvara’s naiShkarmyasiddhi. This discusses the subject at length and points out that shravaNa is the only source of Self-knowledge and enlightenment. Even manana and nididhyAsana, if involved, would precede rather than follow shravaNa in this pursuit.

  25. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for your kind and prompt response.

    Please permit me to add a few lines on different issues.

    1. About the “About” page:
    You may recall that you were very busy finalizing one of your books at that time and Peter sent the much longer ‘draft’ version of the “About” page to me. I sort of condensed and emended it a bit and you were very gracious to approve for publication at the site. That is the reason why I am familiar with it. I do not mean to claim any credit for that, but I wish to act merely as a conscious-keeper for the line of thinking you supported in those days, lest it should be diluted.

    2. About JK:
    Sorry, I was a little clumsy in framing the sentence. Perhaps, I should have done better.

    I meant to allude to two of your recent observations about JK quotes. I am copying here to help recall.

    Jan 20, 2019: “I made it clear to Anon, that JK teaching was not welcome at the site.”

    Jan 09, 2019: “I would like to exclude JK altogether from any discussions. I am not aware that anyone classifies him as an Advaitin so whether or not what he says corresponds with what Shankara said is largely irrelevant. ”

    As you know, Anon’s case was different. The present context is not comparable, IMHO, to Anon’s.

    3. About the PS:
    You say in the PS to your comment above, “… points out that shravaNa is the only source of Self-knowledge and enlightenment.” :

    I hope that kind of approach will not drag us into the classic vivaraNa vs bhAmati debate and what role “mind” has or not in Self-realization.

  26. Dear Ramesam,

    Just to make it absolutely clear, then:

    . the basic policy of the site has not changed;
    . posted articles must be relevant to Advaita but may be ‘biased towards’ any teacher (including JK);
    . comments on existing posts may express views (within reason) but must NOT refer to teachers other than Shankara and traditional sampradAya-s for AUTHORITY. (So you may state that JK said this or that, but not imply that therefore this or that is the correct teaching of Advaita.) Obviously, this is going to happen ‘unintentionally’ from time to time and is not a capital offence! But what is not reasonable, and cannot be tolerated, is to REPEATEDLY make the claim that teaching such as JK’s is authoritative. The reason is simply that I want this to be the site that people come to in order to find out what IS the authoritative, traditional view on a given topic. And they could not do that if Shankara and JK etc. were given equivalent weighting.

    (A corollary to this has to be that ad hominem criticism of traditional teachers such as Swami Dayananda cannot be tolerated either. The views of ANY teacher may be challenged, including Shankara, but this should always be done in a respectful manner, and justified by appropriate reference.)

    So, yes, I agree basically with what you say. But here, the discussion is precisely about the authoritative stance of Advaita regarding knowledge, experience, mind, samAdhi etc. So I would still maintain that the views of JK are inappropriate – he was not an Advaitin.

    Regarding your other point about vivaraNa and bhAmatI:
    You would obviously agree that Shankara’s views were questioned, challenged, extensively commented on, and even changed, subsequent to his death. Much of the teaching that reaches us today is uncertain with respect to provenance. For example, my own view is that we can only be pretty certain that ADI Shankara wrote the bhAShya-s on brahmasUtra, BG, the principal Upanishads (Mandukya being a possible exception but let that go) and upadesha sAhasrI. All the other prakaraNa grantha-s are dubious and all the ‘hymns’ etc. But let us not enter into discussion on that!

    I, too, do not want a vivaraNa versus bhAmatI discussion – I don’t know sufficient detail (other than knowing that my own views are clearly the former). However, as I already pointed out, this particular post is about authoritative support for the views expressed. This will inevitably require sources to be quoted. You or Venkat may (perhaps) quote a teacher with leaning to bhAmatI and I could well refute that with a vivaraNa quotation! Equally, since the topic clearly very much impinges on the role of ‘mind’ in Self-realization, I do not see how we can discuss it without discussing it, if you see what I mean. (Unless you concede now that enlightenment is effectively an ‘event in the mind’, of course…)

    Best wishes,

  27. Hi Dennis

    What is your definition of advaitin, when you say that JK was not an advaitin?

    What qualifies as a traditional sampradaya and who is the arbiter? Surely only the sankaracharyas of the four maths can make such a claim?

  28. Hi Venkat,

    Q: What is your definition of advaitin, when you say that JK was not an advaitin?
    A: Someone who propagates the traditional teaching of Advaita; i.e. as per Adi Shankara (Adi = ‘first’).

    Q: What qualifies as a traditional sampradAya?
    A: Pedantically, a traceable lineage of teachers, who propagate the traditional teaching of Advaita. But more loosely, a teacher who propagates the traditional teaching of Advaita, irrespective of his lineage. The word also means ‘doctrine’, ‘traditional belief or usage’. I prefer the meaning ‘according to tradtion’.

    Q: and who is the arbiter?
    A: Someone who understands the tradional teaching of Advaita.

    Q: Surely only the sankaracharyas of the four maths can make such a claim?
    A: Not necessarily. Shantananda was for some years the shaMkarAchArya of Jyotirmanth but what he taught contained significant elements of sAMkhya and sphota vAda to name just two confusions of the teaching… Which is why I prefer the looser defintion!

  29. Thanks Dennis. To be pedantic . . .

    I looked up what the definition of Advaita is:
    “A Vedantic doctrine that identifies the individual self (atman) with the ground of reality (brahman). It is associated especially with the Indian philosopher Shankara” – Oxford English Dictionary
    “Advaita means non-duality or absence of duality.” –
    “Advaita, (Sanskrit: “Nondualism”) one of the most influential schools of Vedanta, which is one of the six orthodox philosophical systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy. While its followers find its main tenets already fully expressed in the Upanishads and systematized by the Brahma-sutras (also known as the Vedanta-sutras), it has its historical beginning with the 7th-century-CE thinker Gaudapada, author of the Mandukya-karika, a commentary in verse form on the Mandukya Upanishad.” – Encylopedia Brittanica

    So I would have thought that a proper definition of “Advaitin” is one who subscribes to the philosophy of non-dualism as expressed in the Upanishads (whether or not he has read the upanishads). Advaita, as a philosophy pre-dated Shankara, including Gaudapada, Vasishta, Ashtavakra, and the rishis who authored the upanishads. Shankara pulled the strands together into a coherent whole, and explained the seeming contradictions within the different works.

    As such, JK’s talks are entirely of non-dualism, and consistent with advaita, though he and you may not call K an advaitin.

    As to who is a traditional teacher and an arbiter of a traditional teacher – your definition is somewhat circular isn’t it? To know who a traditional teacher is, you need to have been taught by a traditional teacher the traditional teachings, but how do you know in the first place that he is a traditional teacher? Because others say so? How do they know? Vide the various disagreements on this website on the import of advaita, and who is a teacher or not. So logically your definition is circular and does not work!

    Best wishes,

  30. Over the past 16 years, I think I have studied sufficient material to know what constitutes ‘traditional teaching’. If you look at the Bibiography of my ‘A-U-M’ book, you will see that I have referenced virtually every book in English having anything to do with Gaudapada – and have copies of same – and have read most. I am perfectly well aware of the history of Advaita as a teaching, its status vis a vis other Astika philsophies, and Shankara’s role in consolidating its tenets, and the value of Swamis Dayananda and Paramarthananda in transmitting this teaching (to those who will pay attention).

    I don’t dispute the value of JK’s teaching for the modern seeker, just as I would recommend someone like Eckhart Tolle for some aspects. But such teachers cannot be considered to be traditional Advaitin teachers, irrespective of whether or not they maintain that the absolute reality is non-dual. As I have already pointed out, ‘traditional’ means using the techniques of the Vedas in the manner taught by the sampradAya-s. There can be no argument with this definition. Obviously, any person might argue with another’s interpretation of whether a specific aspect is in accord with this tradition but this does not affect its validity.

  31. Sorry Dennis, you argument is based on weak foundations.

    Firstly your definition of “advaitin” would have to exclude Gaudapada, Vasishta and the Rishis of the upanishads, let alone Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta and Krishna Menon, all of whom are mentioned as teachers on this website.

    Secondly, you have elected yourself as the arbiter of traditional teachers, because you have read a lot. How do you know your interpretation is the correct one. Because D and P say so – or agree with you? Really – is that your definition of truth? Somewhat self-absorbed isn’t it?

  32. Let’s try a thought experiment. Swami Chinmayananda was very well versed in scriptures. However there are some important areas of teaching where you, D and P diverge from his teachings and conclusions. So one has to ask: are there multiple versions of Jnana which can co-exist? Was he actually deluded in his jnana, and is it only D and P followers how actually have the true knowledge, and are therefore actually Jnanis and jivanmuktas?

  33. This ultimately is the problem with your / D / P position that (what I call positive) knowledge in the mind is what constitutes jnana.

    Jnana can be pointed at, but has to be realised by oneself through neti, neti and detachment, which is what Sankara and all the masters kept on repeating everywhere. However this is arduous, and it is easier to examine in minutiae the finger pointing at the moon (the sruti) rather than the moon itself.

    Of course, it is easier to build a multinational educational organisation with lots of vapid followers, by providing a 3 year vedanta course that examines the finger.

  34. Venkat,

    I am perfectly happy for you to express contrary opinions but not for you to issue ad hominem condemnation of anyone. Your sarcastic and disrespectful comments are totally unacceptable and must not continue.

    Regarding your equally cynical/sarcastic comment about ‘multiple versions of j~nAna’, I’m sure you know perfectly well that this is not what is being suggested. There is one ‘final realization’, which Shankara summarised as ‘brahma satyam, jaganmithyA, jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH’. Different teachers have different approaches to the one truth. The methods recorded in the scriptures and interpreted/communicated by qualified teachers (who are enlightened, know the scriptures intimately, know Sanskrit and can teach) are what I call traditional.

    Different emphasis of different parts of the scriptures may indeed result in seemingly different, interim messages being taught, when taken out of context. I don’t see this as a problem as long as the essential policy is being followed. All of them are mithyA after all.

  35. Venkat,

    Regarding your insistence that enlightenment is a taking away of stuff from the mind, rather than adding to it:

    I am not disputing that ‘neti, neti’ is the main element of traditional teaching. But persuading the seeker that ‘you are not the body’, ‘you are not the mind’ etc. is still positive teaching which has to be heard (shravaNa). Doubts have to be removed (manana) and the message has to be absorbed and fully understood (nididhyAsana). Then, probably, more teaching has to be heard to take the understanding to the next stage. It will be a final input of some key teaching that will eventually ‘tip the balance’ as in the description of bhAga tyAga lakShaNa –

  36. Dennis

    There was not an ad hominem attack in the above comments. It was a logic-based critique of your position on sampradaya and positive accumulation of sruti knowledge in the mind. Given that chinmayananda, vivekananada, D and P all articulate different versions of Advaita, and you maintain that there is only one authoritative traditional teaching that must be adhered to, the logical consequence is that those who do not articulate the traditional teaching, cannot be Jivanmuktas, since they have not understood sruti properly.

    You are now accepting that there can be different, equally authoritative paths to advaita. So the moniker of traditional teaching in understanding Advaita, and dismissing vivekananda and Ramana is inappropriate.

  37. I always thought JK was either a dead-end or impossibility as a teaching, apart from his contradictions on several levels. Nothing to do with Ramana Maharshi. (David Powell)

    ‘Shows that he was generally on the right path, but in the end, he was frustrated by this very same thought. He understood that the highest step of revelation has to be taken individually. It cannot be “provided.” But, his rejection of institutions to teach elements that are necessary to prepare one to even understand that last leap, ultimately forces his aspiration to share what he had learned to be blocked in every way. Rather, urging people to be free in the fashion he did, seemed to others as license to indulge in ego and fantasy, and thus, they were ill prepared to even begin to understand what he was saying…

    His life is interesting, and his struggle sincere, but his frustration was also true and profound… This is the curse that Krishnamurthy suffered. His statements had an entirely different meaning to him than that which his readers and listeners perceived because they were operating in different frames of reference…

    So, you can see, my analysis is that Krishnamurthy is probably a dead end, regardless of whether or not “serious” people spent serious time dissecting his output.’

  38. Venkat,

    Not sure how many times I need to repeat this:

    ‘Traditional teaching’ is that methodology that involves reading directly from the scriptures, translating, explaining the meaning, commenting on it and then answering questions arising from that process. This is not ‘my’ definition and I do not need any qualifiations to see whether this happens or not for any given teacher.

    It is the shravaNa-manana process from the point of view of the guru. This is not what was/is done by Vivekananda, JK, Ramana, Nisargadatta or Krishna Menon or any of their claimed disciples.

    Precise details of translations, explanations, comments and answers are bound to differ from one traditional teacher to another. This does not make them non-traditional.

    Apologies if my ‘ad hominem’ accusation was not strictly accurate but you cannot deny that you have frequently spoken in disrespectful, disparaging, dismissive or even rude terms of teachers with whose views you do not agree. This attitude is not becoming and not acceptable for these discussions.

  39. Dennis

    I am only disrespectful to those who show disrespect or hypocrisy. And as I hope you know, that comment is not directed at you.

    Anyhow, let’s call it a day.

    Best wishes,

  40. Martin,

    Thanks for your observations and the link provided by you.
    I hope Dennis will not mind our little diversion to discuss JK.

    I see that Mr. David Powell, the author of the article you cited was a Systems Engineering Researcher. Obviously he was neither a philosopher nor a seeker as such.
    I do not know if I would like to take his word as a hallmark to judge JK.
    As it is, it is admitted that it was hard to understand JK and then to think that a person who could not follow what he said was capable to assay his philosophy is incredulous.

    If David found JK as a dead end for him, he should in all honor have moved away from that JK thought rather than indulge in such an exposure of his own intellectual level. His criticism of Theosophy and extending it to JK based on his misapprehension that JK was trained in that thought is neither here nor there. Obviously, David is one who did NOT make any serious or comprehensive study of JK.

    If you read, as you are very familiar, the mANDJUKya mantra 7, and just talk on what it says, how many people can follow you? The fact that the audience could not follow your talk can hardly be the reason to condemn that mantra or the speaker as a dead end.

    Yes, admittedly, what he spoke was not readily accessible to all and sundry because, without any speak-sweet norms, he directly takes one to that very spot (metaphorically speaking) which is “inexpressible to words and inaccessible to the mind.” And he describes from that stance his worldview. Perhaps a modern example of that kind of talk is Peter Dziuban. These people do not cater to the masses.

    The second aspect the writer seems to fail to understand is the cultural milieu existing towards the end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th cent in India, the belief structures and the strong hierarchical “organized” systems prevalent in those days including the rigid formula frameworks designed “to supposedly deliver liberation on a platter” etc. These were the entrenched concepts JK was breaking down and thus preparing people “to empty their minds.” That’s the minimum required before one attempts to follow what he was even trying to indicate. In contrast, it’s absolutely moronic if one takes a stand while keeping intact all the muck in his/her mind and then venture to judge JK bearing that burden.

    JK never even encouraged people to take notes of his talks. Several times he used to say that what he was indicating is already dead by the time the word is uttered. And to think that people want to do a vivisection of the carcasses or dissect carrion and search for “life” in them! What it has come to, alas!


  41. Martin, as a PS, please let me add:

    1. I went back to the Quora and copied my above Comment over there slightly tweaking a word or two.

    2. I found another person who claimed to be acquainted with JK’s teaching said the following at the same link you gave. I wish you have considered this answer at the Quora. I am copying the same below:

    Abhey Rana, Spent time in K retreats & schools, have read enough K

    K would not have wanted anyone to do any ‘research’ , advanced or otherwise on his teachings. In fact research on his teachings ironically would be the very anti-thesis of what K kept imploring others to do.

    In simple terms, his words are just simple pointers to invoke awareness and enable ‘seeing’. Instead of trying to interpret, compare or formulate a theory out of his words, just listen to him as you would to a close friend who has discovered something beautiful about life and feels compelled to share it.

    As you read him, see what he is trying to tell you in the present directly. Engage with him. If you must do research, make your very being the field of your research.

    His words were only to be used as steps of a ladder so to speak – to climb beyond them. Only after transcending them would one see himself and the world aright. Anyone who wishes to follow his words to discover truth would have to throw away the ‘ladder’ after he has climbed up it. To be a researcher is to grow attached to the ladder instead.

    IMHO, this is more a balanced post.

  42. Ramesam,

    There is no question about JK’s intentions, his insights, and originality; also about the cultural/intellectual/spiritual climate at the time, though there cannot be absolutes in this area. Curiously, OSHO said of K (and his followers) that he/they were too serious (and dry) … very cerebral, no fun – but this is not important, if not irrelevant. I agree with David Powell, though, when he says that ‘his rejection of institutions to teach elements that are necessary to prepare one to even understand that last leap, ultimately forces his aspiration to share what he had learned to be blocked in every way’.

    Isn’t there some similarity between K’s efforts and the modern Neo-Advaitins, sort of starting the building by the roof? No previous preparations, no foundation — except for the very few that had at least some of it and were ready for the jump (Dennis made this point in the past).

    By the way, I read Powell’s curriculum (and some of his answers in Quora) and, in my opinion, it is contrary to what you say of him: one gathers that he is a spiritual person, a seeker (and an accomplished one at that).

    The subject of Krishnamurty is complicated, and one can look at it from different angles, all or most of them based on an individual, personal, perspective. However, one should have a clearer view of things due to the passage of time. I did struggle with K and his teaching for two whole years and gave up at the end. Like all of us, I had some baggage on my back – intellectual and other conditionings, call it vasanas.

  43. Martin,

    Thanks again for your response.
    I do not intend to make this here into a prolonged debate on JK for obvious reasons. But let me please address a couple of concerns you expressed.

    1. About David Powell:
    His Intro just said that he was a Systems Analyst. I also found that he was into some Jewish Religious studies. From that, I could not infer that he is a Non-dual seeker. I did not know his CV which you seem to know. Will be thankful if you can share the info about his studies on Non-dual path / teachers.

    2. About “Building from the Roof”:
    That’s a great metaphor and I would like to use it in my own writings, if there is no Copyright! 🙂

    Yes, we are very much accustomed to work in a time-space continuum. We do value the gradational time-dependent approach for growth, to experience the “feel” of development that it gives, to exalt in a sense of purpose it offers and to ultimately immerse ourselves in the thrill of achievement it promises.

    Our educational system, our cultural values, our transactions and even our mindset have all adopted a structure based on a time-dependent model which works well in the empirical world. As Vedantins, we know that the world is all nothing but a mentation, but we cling on to it. We take pride in acquiring, building, accumulating, and hoarding. We unthinkingly extend that design into our mental realms too, and honor those people as Scholars and Experts who accumulate more and more content in their head. And we unabashedly bow to such a scholar if that lode happens be spiritual knowledge!

    Religions thrive and burgeon and flourish with that approach. So also does much of what goes on under the name of so-called “traditional” teaching.

    Advaita thunders from roof tops that salvation does NOT lie in more and more acquisitions. It is all in giving up. In Dropping things. In Renouncing. But it then cautiously adds that it is giving up things that are NOT really there!

    We have Gaudapada cajoling us and expiating the Truth with all love:

    मनोदृश्यमिदं द्वैतं यत्किञ्चित्सचराचरम् ।
    मनसो ह्यमनीभावे द्वैतं नैवोपलभ्यते ॥
    — 3.31, Gaudapada kArikA
    All these dual objects, comprising everything that is movable and immovable, perceived by the mind (are mind alone). For, duality is never experienced when the mind ceases to act. (Translation Swami Nikhilananda).

    Shankara reinforces in his commentary on that verse:

    रज्जुसर्पवद्विकल्पनारूपं द्वैतरूपेण मन एवेत्युक्तम् । तत्र किं प्रमाणमिति, अन्वयव्यतिरेकलक्षणमनुमानमाह । कथम् ? तेन हि मनसा विकल्प्यमानेन दृश्यं मनोदृश्यम् इदं द्वैतं सर्वं मन इति प्रतिज्ञा, तद्भावे भावात् तदभावे चाभावात् । मनसो हि अमनीभावे निरुद्धे विवेकदर्शनाभ्यासवैराग्याभ्यां रज्ज्वामिव सर्पे लयं गते वा सुषुप्ते द्वैतं नैवोपलभ्यत इति अभावात्सिद्धं द्वैतस्यासत्त्वमित्यर्थः ॥
    It has been said that it is the mind alone which appears as dual (objects) like the appearance of snake on the rope. But what is its proof? Our answer is this: we make the statement on the strength of an inference following the method of agreement and difference (anvaya-vyatireka). The proposition is that all this duality perceived as such by the imagination of the mid is, in reality, nothing but the mind. The reason for such an inference is that duality is perceived when the mind acts and it vanishes when the mind ceases to act; that is to say, when the (activity, i.e., the vRitti-s of the) mind is withdrawn unto itself by the knowledge got through discrimination, repeated practice and renunciation – like the disappearance of the snake on the rope – or during the deep sleep. Hence on account of the disappearance of duality, it is established that duality is unreal or illusory. That the perception of the duality is due to the action of the mind is further proved by this kArikA. (Translation Swami Nikhilananda).

    So what is there to build up? What is there to construct from “Bottom Up” ?
    We can see the metaphor of gradual building up is superbly inapplicable to end the mind.

    The most beneficial approach in Vedanta is NOT “Building Up,” or acquiring/hoarding but DEMOLITION!

    And all demolition happens Top-Down! From the roof down.

    In contrast, when we listen to a teacher, we are normally eager to take home an instruction to follow, to repeat a method, get by heart a mantra etc. etc. though the Upanishads holler that no activity will deliver liberation.

    So JK always attempted to end such practices and discouraged his listeners from looking for little “pacifiers” / lollipops / crutches to hang on to and thereby unknowingly fortify the very mind which needed to be eradicated. He used to tell his audience to just listen with full attention and leave it there without any analysis being done through a burdened mind. Much like Buddha, he even used to say let the message work by itself.

    Aldous Huxley echoed a similar sentiment when he said about JK: “Hearing Krishnamurti speak was like listening to a discourse of the Buddha… such power, such intrinsic authority. ”

    Regarding your experience of studying JK, I regret that you found him not useful. Could be you were in a different frame of mind then. We can discuss offline in more detail, if you like.


  44. Ramesam,

    You keep talking here about ‘ending the mind’ and use words like ‘DEMOLITION’. I am not quibbling about Nikhilananda’s translation but your interpretation of it. You are assuming that Gaudapada’s use of the word ‘amanIbhAva’ is synonymous with that much misunderstood term ‘manonAsha’. As I state in ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’:

    This means ‘the state of not having perception or intellect’ and comes from the Maitri or maitrAyanIya Upanishad (VI.34). It is worth quoting some of what is said there (Ref. 80):

    Having made the mind perfectly motionless, free from sleep and agitation–when he passes into that state where the mind itself vanishes, then is that the highest place… The mind alone is to mortals the cause of bondage and liberation; cleaving to objects of sense, it is only for bondage; when it is void of all objects it is called liberation.

    The way that Gaudapada puts it is that, when the mind ceases to function, duality is no longer perceived – and this we know from our own experience in deep sleep. But clearly this is not quite the same. There is never any duality – this is the truth. But, in our ignorance we believe that the perceived duality is real; just as we believe the mirage water is real. Once we gain the knowledge, we realize that our belief was mistaken, even though we still see the duality or mirage.

    When the knowledge dawns that the world, including the mind, is only mithyA, this is the figurative death of the mind… manonAsha should not be thought of as ‘death of the mind’, which is not at all the case. It should be understood as the intellectual recognition that the mind is unreal, from the vantage point of absolute reality.

    (You can read an essay on manonAsha at

    Chapter 4 of the kArikA-s is based around the metaphor of the whirling firebrand. (I use the more up-to-date idea of a firework ‘sparkler’.) You hold this in your hand and wave your arm around. It appears as though solid forms are materializing in the air. When you stop moving, the patterns disappear and you just see the glowing tip. This is analogous to the moving mind generating the world of duality. But I ask you: is it necessary to stop waving the sparkler about in order to know what is happening? Once you have gained the knowledge, it no longer matters that you still see it. It is like knowing that the snake is only a rope. It may still look like a snake but it causes no concern.

    Another common metaphor in the scriptures is that of the clay pot. We can destroy the pot by throwing it onto the ground and jumping on it. We can then see that it is only clay. But we don’t have to do this. It is possible to understand that the pot is really only clay without destroying it. And then we can still make use of the clay in its pot form to carry water. Similarly with the mind. It does not have to be destroyed to realize that it is really Atman. In any case, if we ‘as if’ destroy it with samAdhi, it comes back anyway.

    Best wishes,

  45. Dennis

    This can’t go unanswered.

    Sankara / Gaudapada stated in many places, that the mind ceases to function (as per your quote), that there is no more particular consciousness for a jnani (as in Brhad Up), etc.

    SSSS, Ramana, Nisargadatta, JK, Ramakrishna, all say much the same.

    I don’t know whether they meant it literally (I am not a jnani), but what we can know is that they implied that jnana, in the sense of being Brahman, requires a total disidentification with the body-mind and a significant transformation in the way the mind usually works; essentially a destruction of its habitual conditioning, and ways of thinking. JK used to call it a mutation of the brain cells, though again, he did not mean this literally.

    As for Sankara and Gaudapada, their ultimate instruction is of neti, neti and renunciation. It seems clear that if you truly negate, then renunciation is inevitable, even of your own body-mind. This is why the logic of renunciation in association with neti, neti is incontrovertible. This is why realised sages have said utter desirelessness, detachment is equivalent to liberation. This is why a jnani is said to be like a leaf blown in the wind.

    So now lets come to Swami D. He doesn’t talk about renunciation in this strict sense, but ‘detachment’ in a milder sense of preliminary preparation to “purify” the mind. As you mentioned, he implies any lifestyle is compatible with jnani – either one that is active in the world or one that is withdrawn.

    Let’s be clear, Sankara never fails to emphasise renunciation as a prerequisite for jnana, and never talks about a jnani continuing to live a ‘normal’ life. Clearly he implied that there is a significant transformation of the mind – and indeed that there was a destruction of the “particular consciousness”.

    The argument that jnana can “be understood as the intellectual recognition that the mind is unreal, from the vantage point of absolute reality” cannot hold, because the mind itself being unreal, cannot take the vantage point of absolute reality. All that intellectual knowledge means is that it has a concept in the mind of absolute reality, what SSSS rightly dismisses as a thought taking the form of Brahman.

    JK says that when the mind sees that its thinking is forever limited, and its thoughts can never access the real, then thoughts themselves naturally come to an end. Again, please distinguish between functional ve psychological ‘me’ thoughts. I’d refer you to my earlier comment above.

    Finally to address “mithya is not a problem”. Sorry it is. It is people leading vyavaharikic lives, pursuing artha, Kama and even dharma, that has led to a world full of misery, and civilisation at the brink of collapse (rightly so). A world that has been ravaged and plundered for its spoils and its labour, especially over the last 500 years as a result of the power that the industrial revolution unleashed. A world that is now governed by and for a plutocracy of a few hundred, with billions in poverty and servitude, and a middle class who aspire to move up.

    D’s message is a palliative to this middle class (especially the brown-skinned ones) who are anxious to compete and accumulate, and yet somehow feel there is something wrong with the poverty around them, something missing in this constant striving. So D provides intellectual knowledge, which enables them to continue to work as previously, but say to themselves, “I am better than the other fellow who I am competing against, because I know this is unreal and I am detached (really)”. Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. Quite right.

    In Sankara’s time, there would have been similar classes, corruption and inequality, but not to the scale that we are now witnessing, that has been made possible through technological “progress”. Do you really think that a Sankara, a Buddha, a Christ, would not have shuddered at the world as it is today? Isn’t their message of renunciation more apposite than ever?

    The message of advaita is uncompromising – give up this striving for more, for “me”, get out of this corrupting rat race, and live simply and peacefully, indifferent to the pettiness and meanness of humanity. And if that means you die, then die; it is only the body-mind that dies. And that is the message of Ramana Maharishi’s life.

  46. Perhaps you have hit the nail on the head here, Venkat. You are looking at all of this from the point of view of someone who still identifies with the world of poverty and injustice and has an idealized view of someone who switches off completely and no longer sees any of it. But as I put it: “Once you have gained the knowledge, it no longer matters that you still see it. It is like knowing that the snake is only a rope. It may still look like a snake but it causes no concern.” mithyA is not a problem FOR THE J~NANI.

    Anyway, as I keep saying, I will write a proper blog on this topic in a few weeks’ time. Please be patient!

  47. Dennis: I agree that mithya is not a problem for the jnani. How can it be?

    Venkat: You refer to A. Vedanta’s ‘clear message’ while also having written that it is also an ‘authoritarian structure’!!

    Ramesam: I did not find anything of what you said you wrote in Quora re David Powell. In any case, I don’t think spirituality equals non-duality. I am not an iconoclast, as Venkat is (rather I am an iconodule), and believe that all religions have a spiritual or metaphysical core, such as Christianity, Islam (sufism), Judaism (Kabbalah), and Buddhism. (answer of David Powell).

    Knowing that mind is a superimposition on consciousness, one knows that all one thinks and says is not the truth, that it is an arising in consciousness – only reality – presented in a dual form. Yet, one (we) continue thinking, speaking, writing. Does this matter very much, if one knows what ‘he’ – consciousness – is ‘apparently’ doing? Is it just a pastime, or a heated debate? It depends on whether an ego is operating or not, which means attachment vs. dispassion. If one knows that a debate, etc., is just an intellectual or mental exercise, a sort of game, then there can be no harm. – one knows that only the substrate/consciousness/I is real.

  48. Martin – I don’t think that I ever conveyed that AV has an authoritarian structure. I simply wrote that in the way it is being conveyed by some, it is just another accumulation of knowledge, rather than a radical negation.


    I have previously reflected on the point you have just made. Simply saying that I see the snake, but know its a rope, is just an escape. That is the opium Marx was talking about. This is the problem with the sense in which you convey it: vyavaharik life goes on in earnest, whilst paramarthic truth is held in mind. But this vyvaharik life is corrupt to the core – so how can one who knows, continue to participate in it?

    Advaita Vedanta, in that it has at its purpose the elimination of the ego, the identification with the body-mind, inevitably means that it, the ego, no longer causes mischief and harm. Others may continue to do so, but the jnani no longer contributes to it, because he has renounced the world. And as Krishna says to Arjuna, if a jnani acts, he does so for the sake of the world. Naiskama karma – desireless, non-self-motivated, action.

    For me, the key to this lies with V.S.Iyer:
    “The goal of Vedanta is to see the other man’s sufferings as your own. Because in dream all the scenes and all the people are made of the same essence as yourself, they are as real as you are. Do not treat other people as mere ideas but your own self as real. If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they. Hence you must feel for them all just what you feel for yourself.”

    That “if you are real, so are they” is what is forgotten, when it is believed that one has understood Advaita. Only if you can be totally indifferent / detached to what happens to your own body-mind, can you then, without hypocrisy, be indifferent to the suffering of the world, on the basis that it is unreal.

    “The essential thing is renunciation. Without renunciation none can pour out his whole heart in working for others. The man of renunciation sees all with an equal eye and devotes himself to the service of all” – Sw Vivekananda.

    Alexander Smit (a Nosargadatta disciple, who I believe was Philip Renard’s teacher) wrote:
    “Whoever is living from that clarity can no longer be manipulated nor does he have any more fear. Such a person is without concessions and therefore complete, whatever may happen! Even before death you should have let go of everything of your own free will. If you live intensely, you will also die intensely. ‘Intensely’ meaning without concessions. Not without love, but without concessions. Self-realisation is to die each moment. It means to be running perfectly synchronously with existence, with the here and now. Letting go of the known, letting go of everything that is tied up with the manifested. It requires total dedication. And whoever begins to see things as they really are, will become a risk to interested parties, to politicians, to society. Because such a man is totally without any concessions, nor is he in any way open to manipulation.”

  49. Dennis,

    TWO points, as I know you like the authority of sruti.

    Firstly, to support my V.S Iyer quote (“If they are ideas, so are you; if you are real, so are they”), I would refer you to:

    BG 6.32: ” O Arjuna, that yogi is considered the best who judges what is happiness and sorrow in all beings by the same standard as he would apply to himself”.

    Secondly, with respect to the discussion on the effective elimination / attenuation of the usual workings of the mind, as a result of detachment:

    By totally eschewing all desires which arise from thoughts, and restraining with the mind itself all the organs from every side;
    One should gradually withdraw with the intellect endowed with steadiness. MAKING THE MIND FIXED IN THE SELF, ONE SHOULD NOT THINK OF ANYTHING WHATSOEVER.
    The yogi should bring this mind under the subjugation of the Self itself, by restraining it from all those causes whatever due to which the restless, unsteady mind wanders away.
    Supreme Bliss comes to this yogi alone whose mind has become PERFECTLY TRANQUIL, whose quality of rajas has been eliminated, who has become identified with Brahman, and is taintless.
    By concentrating his mind constantly thus, the taintless yogi easily attains the absolute Bliss of contact with Brahman.

    When Arjuna subsequently complains that it is difficult to bring the mind under control, Krishna responds
    BG6.35: O mighty-armed one undoubtedly the mind is intractable and restless. But O son on Kunti, it is brought under control through practice and detachment.
    Sanakra’s comment: “That mind is thus brought under control, restrained, ie COMPLETELY SUBDUED”.

    SSSS refers to these passages as what Shankara meant by adhyatma yoga = nidhidyasana

    I don’t see how it is possible to maintain a position that “mind is not a problem”, that there are two lifestyles for a jnani, and that self-realisation is simply a result of sruti vichara, as opposed to a process of negation and renunciation until the mind is perfectly tranquil. It seems clear that knowledge is about the removal of ignorance, negation, not the gaining of some new concepts.

    • Venkat,

      As I have said several times now, I am not going to engage in any detailed discussion at this point. I intend to marshall all my thoughts, references and reasoning for a future article and we will no doubt have those discussions then.

      Just for the moment, you conclude: “It seems clear that knowledge is about the removal of ignorance, negation, not the gaining of some new concepts.” Can I ask you: what exactly is the pramANa for gaining the knowledge (Shankara’s ‘summary’ of advaita): brahma satyam, jaganmithyA, jIvo brahmaiva nAparaH? (You will know of course that advaita recognizes 6 pramANa-s.)

  50. Dennis,

    I respond here to your observations of Feb 2nd (10:01), 2019.

    As you must be aware, I am quite familiar with both your book, A-U-M and also the linked article of yours on manonAsha. I also recall that we did discuss a couple of times in the past at this site that “nAsha” does not involve “destruction” as the word is usually translated.

    I also have almost the same perception with regard to “manonAsha” as you have expressed except for a couple of points which are not insignificant. However, I arrest myself from going into those details and subtleties here as the topic is too involved and too vast. This column space is very inadequate and the occasion is quite inexpedient to deal with it in a befitting manner.

    Having said the above, let me quickly add:

    1. Yes, I agree, “demolition” is not a very appropriate word to indicate what “amanIbhAva” implies. I “chose” that word just to gel with the Martin’s metaphor of starting with “roof.”

    But at the same time, let me also point out that the word “destruction” and its variants chosen by you in your essay also fall far short of the true sense of that word.

    Shankara expresses an approximation of what the word stands for in his commentary at GK 3.32. He says: “The mind is then like fire when there is no fuel to burn.” Significantly he adds, “It ceases to be a mind, i.e. for want of any object to be cognized, becomes free from all cognition.” Further down at 3.34, he emphasizes, that duality “disappears” when the mind thus ceases to act.”

    The position you take that the jnAni continues “to see objects” stands in contrast to the above explanation of Shankara.

    In addition to amanIbhAva, we also find words like: manonASha, manonmanI, unmanI, amanaska, etc. which speak to almost similar situations in the scriptures. Yogavasishta talks about manonASha extensively at several places. We shall discuss them separately.

    It may not be out of place, if I end this comment with a quote on manonAsha from Ramana I happened to find that recently :

    “[Mind’s] destruction is the non-recognition of it as being apart from the Self. Even now the mind is not. Recognize it. How can you do it if not in everyday activities. They go on automatically. Know that the mind promoting them is not real but a phantom proceeding from the Self. That is how the mind is destroyed.”

    So it is not through “attribution” of mithyatva, but by non-perception of objects (i.e. no objectification), a jnAni functions. It is much like, “The Sun shines, the earth rotates, the ocean waves, the river flows, the heart beats, the realized sage acts.”


    • Ramesam,

      Thanks for the partial agreement. 🙂 My main comment is as per my response to Venkat. I see no point in discussing twice and wish to postpone until I have consolidated all of the reasoning. But I would ask, reagarding your statement [“The position you take that the jnAni continues “to see objects” stands in contrast to the above explanation of Shankara.]: if a j~nAnI does not continue to see objects, how does he avoid bumping into them? You will appreciate that, despite the way I have phrased this, it is not a facetious question!

  51. Martin,

    My Comment is there towards the bottom of the Quora page you gave a link to. After your alert, I realized that there is a place for Comment below each Answer. So I copied my Comment again below Powell’s Reply.

    2. You did not amplify in your comment on Powell’s CV which you said you knew.

    As you are undoubtedly aware, the unique and the most fundamental difference between all “-isms” (religions) and Advaita is about the material cause being the same as the efficient cause. Such a concept is quite alien to any of the religious doctrines and unless one realizes its significance, one cannot appreciate the position of Advaita, whatever the person’s expertise on religions be.

    There cannot be the quality/ability of all-pervasion in the absence of universality of the material cause/substance.

    3. I am also not very clear when you say that “mithya is not a problem for a jnAni.” In what sense you mean to say that? Does SSSS say so anywhere? Will be grateful if you can expand a little on that.

    IMHO, It is not enough just if “one knows that only the substrate/consciousness/I is real.
    In order to be a jnAni, “One has to “be the substrate/consciousness/I.”

    4. Regarding your observation that you are an “iconodule” (a worshiper of images), you must be aware that even if an Advaitin worships an idol, he invokes the Self in the idol and worships as Self – with a sense of full identity. It is more of Atmarati and not even what is called AtmakrIDa.

    Shankara says:
    न अविष्णुः कीर्तयेत् विष्णुं न अविष्णुः विष्णुं अर्चयेत् ।
    न अविष्णुः संस्मरेत् विष्णुं न अविष्णुः विष्णुं आप्नुयात् ॥

    Meaning: One who is not himself ViShnu cannot sing about viShNu, cannot worship viShNu, cannot meditate on viShNu, will not attain to viShNu.


  52. Thanks Venkat for all your Posts that try to make clear, concise and unmuddied expression of what the “vision” of a jnAni would be like. Obviously, what we all say here is an “approximation,” perhaps a guesstimate only, but what you quote appeals to me as the nearest possible to what the scripture says.


  53. Just a general comment at the end of this thread in case readers have missed my intermediate responses:

    I will be posting an article on this subject in a few weeks’ time which will summarize all of my reasoning, with supporting quotations from scriptures, Shankara and immediate disciples. But I cannot promise that all points made by the pUrvapakShin-s (!) here will be taken into consideration. i.e. you are liable to have to repeat any arguments at that time. This amounts to a polite suggestion that you may want to bring the discussion to a close for the time being.

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