Shankara’s Direct Path Method

 Shankara spells out the most Direct Path method of Self-realization on a here and now basis in his short treatise, aparokShAnubhUti. He explains very lucidly in simple words, through the 144 verses of this text, the means to have the direct experience of brahman. He boldly declares right up front the unreality of the three entities, jIva-jagat-Ishwara, the model commonly used in teaching Advaita. He avers that ‘action’ (karma) or worship (upAsana) cannot deliver liberation. However, he says an intense yearning for liberation (mumukshatva) has to be present in a seeker.

Shankara’s Direct Path has nothing to do with the changing or manipulating the external world or one’s own body-mind system. It is all about how the world is perceived. The three possible worldviews are:

  1. Perspective of the Ignorant;
  2. Perspective of the Seeker; and,
  3. Perspective of the Accomplished.

The dream metaphor explains best the three stages of Shankara’s Direct Path.

  1. The  way of the ignorant:

This is what every one of us is quite familiar with. We spend our entire span of life and activities around the single belief that the world and the objects in it are real. We become vulnerable to and suffer the consequences of that belief. It is similar to our life in our dream.

When we are in a dream, we take whatever is seen as real. Our behavior and responses depend on what is seen. We never stop to ask during the dream whether what was seen was true or not. We see a snake or someone coming to attack us. We feel scared and run to save ourselves. Next we may see the ticket in our pocket has won a big lottery. We hear the clinking sound of the coins and the wads of crisp currency notes. We feel happy and smug as though we are on top of the world. Our happiness and sorrow vary depending on the things that happen to us in the dream.

Correspondingly, taking the objects in the world and the world in our wakeful state to be real is the ignorant phase. We are bound to experience happiness and sorrow in this phase as a result of that belief. This is the common unenlightened life almost all of us lead in the awake world.

  1. The way of the seeker:

After we wake up from the dream and recall it, we laugh away the experiences – the winning of lottery or the snake chasing us. Though we experience the things (during the recollection), we will not get affected because we do not take them to be real anymore. From the present state of wakefulness, the dream objects appear as phantoms. Their appearance (during the reminiscence) is an AbhAsa, mere apparition.

Correspondingly, we learn to see the awake world objects also as AbhAsa, because we understand from our dream experience that when the objects and events are seen as AbhAsa, we are not affected by them.  This is the seeking phase in our awake world.

  1. The way of the Accomplished:

When we examine our dream more closely from the awake state we are in now, we realize it was all actually “myself” alone in the dream world and there was no one or nothing else other  than ‘me.’ It is me who was the snake, the currency won in the lottery, the action of winning, the roads and the buildings, the act of running on seeing the snake, the fellow who argued with me, the argument, and so on are ALL made up of my mind only. Everything in the dream is myself. All things are one hundred percent ‘Me.’

Correpsondingly, I begin to see that all the things in the awake world are nothing but “my” own “seeing.” Shankara advises that the plasticity of the mind has to be taken advantage of to expand itself to Infinity from being the  finite ‘me’ through unbroken contemplation of everything as ‘me’ in the awake worldview.

In short, the three stages are:
1.  Realize that we live and suffer in the world because we take it to be “real” without verifying our belief.
2.  Learn to live viewing the world as diaphanous insubstantial apparition as we do with last night’s dream.
3.  Just like you can understand from awake state that the entire dream world is ‘me’ only, see the awake world also as ‘me,’

If a seeker, however, is not ready for this, Shankara gives a more detailed 15-step practice method to guide the seeker on the above lines towards the last part of the text.

38 thoughts on “Shankara’s Direct Path Method

  1. Ramesam,

    Which is your recommended translation for Aparokshanubhuti? Thanks.

  2. An interesting Question from a Friend:

    Thanks Ramesam — That is well written and very clear. The dream analogy is succinct and potent. I do have one question that you might be able to elaborate on. In the statement . . .

    “Shankara advises that the plasticity of the mind has to be taken advantage of to expand itself to Infinity from being the finite ‘me’ through unbroken contemplation of everything as ‘me’ in the awake worldview.”

    — could you characterize how you see the process of “unbroken contemplation”. Is this mediated by thought or somehow activated by perception – or both? I would appreciate your perspective on this.


    My Reply:

    Shankara is almost at the midpoint of the teaching here. In the verses from # 70 to 74, he gives different analogies to show how we perceive the Universal brahman as a ‘particular’ object due to our ignorance of the Reality.

    Because of ignorance, we see a snake instead of the rope;
    silver instead of the nacre;
    pot instead of the clay;
    cloth instead of the threads;
    Similarly, we see the body instead of the Consciousness.

    When we view a ‘particular,’ (visheSha), our finite mind is so much accustomed to ID-ing the ‘particular’ assigning a form and a name, that the process happens very automatically without our conscious awareness. We should, instead, notice the Universal (sAmAnya) that pervades everything by ‘melting the form’ (pravilApana). Looking at the changeable ‘form’ is ignorance and also is the cause for fear because the form will perish at any time. Grasping the Universal provides the secure position.

    So at the initial stage, we have to conscientiously make an effort in seeing the Universal (sAmAnya) even in the particular – like seeing the “Gold” in the ring, bangle, ear stud, necklace etc. etc. or like seeing the “Clay” in the pot, pan, plate, tile, tumbler etc. etc.

    The mind eventually will learn due to its plasticity to seeing the gold rather than the ornament; the clay rather than the vessel or seeing the Self in all instead of the ‘object.’

    Therefore, in the beginning the process may look ‘as though’ “mediated by a thought but in time it will be clear that it is activated by perception itself.”

    [I said ‘as though’ because, strictly speaking, even that specific thought, as you can appreciate, is not under our control.]


  3. Dear Ramesam

    Thanks for the article, and especially the link to the superb commentary by Sri Y. Srinivasa Rao – it is riveting, even from the very outset where he comments on the significance of the name – Aparokshanubuthi. Do you know when it will be fully uploaded?

    In your comment above, you note that thought is not under our control. In the commentary, he argues with respect to yoga marga:

    “The individual is helpless in the matter as he does not have doership (kartrutva). The individual has no choice but to face whatever prakriti throws at him. There is no scope for the individual to do anything against it, unless prakriti itself frees him.
    But then, why would prakriti, which is the cause for bondage to start with, release the individual from bondage? One cannot imagine any reason for it to release the individual (jIva), since it cannot make an arbitrary decision to set some individuals free, some to keep in bondage for a longer time, and so on. This cannot be a valid theory.”

    If “we” cannot control thought, and are not the doer, then where is the locus of ignorance, and who is to have the thought of vicara to remove the ignorance? Brahman cannot have ignorance. So it must be the jiva-thought that arises, which then creates further subject-object thoughts and thence desires / fears, or turns back on itself to examine its reality as separate from the whole. The thought to turn back on itself surely must be under its control?

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Venkat,

      Thank you for the observations.

      The part quoted by you starting from “The individual is helpless …..cannot be a valid theory” comes from the Part-3 of the Series.

      At this point, Shri YSR was speaking about the concepts on which Patanjali yoga is based. Shri YSR shows how the philosophical principles of yoga lead to mutual contradictions and contrasts their theory with that of Advaita. He holds that the Patanjali yoga concepts are untenable. As you scroll down further, you find that he says: “… Howevermany days are spent studying yoga, there is no true liberation in spite of its promise. It can only be pseudo, a false sense of liberation.”

      [Sorry, the above sentence is a bit unclear. It should read: “Whatsoever may be the number of days spent on a study of yoga, there is no true liberation in spite of its promise. It can give only a pseudo-liberation.”]

      Thus, Shri YSR indicates that only Advaita siddhAnta can take one to liberation and not Patanjala yoga.

      Next I want to clarify on what I said in my reply to a Friend in the above comment. When I said that thought is not under “our” control, I am commenting from the viewpoint of total liberation, the ULTIMATE position.

      There can be “my” effort and there can be “my” thinking only if there is a “me” or a separate “I” who claims ownership to the thought. So as long as there is the sense of separate “I,” we can speak in terms of “my” thought. On full realization, it is, however, understood that there is no “me” (vide Gaudapada kArikA II-32). All things (including any thought arising or not) are all just happenings to no ‘one’ in particular. There is nobody to say “this is my thought.” Viewed from that position, even the seeker and seeking, the arising of a thought which says “I should consciously think of brahman” etc. etc. are apparent happenings.

      I am grateful to you for your comments on the YSR commentary. It may take a few more weeks to get all the 48 files uploaded and fix the bugs.


      • Hi Ramesam

        Yes, YSR was critiquing Patanjali’s yoga, but the logic he applied should be relevant for Advaita too.

        Having said that, what you wrote in your penultimate paragraph is my understanding too.

        I look forward to the remainder of the YSR commentary.

        PS You really have had an enviable exposure to a range of impressive commentators!

  4. Venkat,

    I have not listened to this commentary that Ramesam posted above so am only relying on your words to make my comment. It seems you are pointing out an explanation made that I cannot find in the stanzas themselves when it is said prakriti is the cause for bondage. It is generally stated that Ignorance is the cause for bondage and Knowledge is the cause for the dissolution of Ignorance.

    While I am agreeing with you that this theory of Prakriti is not a valid one, the idea of doership is also not a valid one. Because of this underlying ignorance, every experience is automatically interpreted into a subject-object dichotomy. This is not something you can change through any kind of control. In other words, we cannot think ourselves out of this because thought itself is part of the interpretation of subject-object. This is where the preliminary qualifications come in at stanza 3. Vairagya, dispassion, is essential for vichara, enquiry. Without a turning away from our ‘normal’ way of looking at things, we cannot enter into a true enquiry into ourselves. And, vichara is stated as the means to Knowledge, stanza 11.

    The re-ification that you describe is not engaged when there is vairagya. Vairagya is a condition for release and letting go of all mental conceptualization. This non-attachment, letting go allows wisdom or what ever word you like to ‘see’ that you are not the body, the aggregates, or any entity that you can fabricate. Where is the jiva, then, with or without thoughts? Our whole existence is a dream, an illusion, as long as we keep believing in who we think we are. Whether we call it Brahman or Buddha nature, without negating the illusion, we can never touch the real. So, what negates the illusion? Brahman in terms of Advaita. Nibbana for Buddhists. Not so different except for the words.

  5. Where is the locus of ignorance? There is none, it is an illusion created when you believe in a separate self. The way we process sensory experience is already compromised. Every perception contains the dual dichotomy. There is no way to change this except through your own liberation which does the work you seek to do on your ‘self’. Discerning the real is the work, not fixing what cannot be fixed. Thought is what it is, conditioned. Everything we experience is thought induced, mind. We don’t yet see this.

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you – and I don’t disagree with that you are saying, but . . .

    You note that we cannot think ourselves out of this, but then turning away from external objects and pursuing vichara are both thoughts.

    So there can be two logical explanations:

    1) conditioned thoughts arise, starting with the I-thought and thence subject-object dichotomy. As a result perceptions of suffering arise, which leads to the ‘I’-thought question itself and seek answers, and which culminate in the ending of the separative I-thought. Will must be involved in this inward turning, and in the process extinguishes itself (the stick stirring a pyre itself gets burnt).

    2) As above, except that the I-thought has no will, no choice, in this inward turning. It simply happens, as does the letting go of the body mind. So the vairagya and the vichara are all just happening on their own, as part of predestination.

    Neither model is provable, but if (2) is correct, then Brahman / Self is perverse indeed – setting up a show of suffering, and a pre-written script of stumbling towards Self-realisation, in which the victim (albeit illusory) has no control in its self-imolation.

  7. Venkat,

    1. I am not sure what thought arises first or if it matters. The I-thought is an assumption, not a reality. Sensory perception happens automatically and so does its interpretation which results in images of perception of all the senses. These are all synthesized at enormous speeds. All this is conditioned. We are taught the values and desires of sensual experiences. When you chase these images because you desire something from them, it puts you into a stressful state. Sometimes you are sated but it doesn’t last long. This craving syndrome, including the desire to understand or experience a state of mind contributes to this stress. If you see that what you are chasing doesn’t satisfy you, or that it doesn’t exist, you stop chasing it, desiring it. This is what attention brings, vairagya. Attention is a quality of mind that is not conditioned because it is not a thought, per se. It is kind of a light that shines on a particular subject. When that light is bright enough you see something clearly. This changes your action and the way you view a subject. The equipoise that the stanzas talk about comes into being through the focus of attention. Vichara begins. You are not chasing the images but focusing attention on what arises. All of a sudden, something clicks. This is what people call insight. We can make it into a religious thing or just leave it as it is depending on your views. Since views are said to be conditioned, the vichara penetrates further and sees that these views are an illusion and that the I-thought and all beliefs are causing this conditioning, coloring our view of everything. We penetrate further into the nature of mind to see how all of this has no center, no sign, no reference point with which to re-ify a view. It is a vast expanse, knowing itself, and sees everything that arises as itself. All of it has the same nature, non-dual and present.

    2. What is will? It is desire. You want something and you apply pressure to yourself to get it. This goes only so far as anything you desire is impermanent and therefore, unsatisfying. You begin to see that your cravings are causing suffering. Craving is the way of life as a human being. It has been handed down to us for thousands of years. We don’t just wake up one day and poof it’s gone. Your very being/existence is tied to this craving, or so it seems. Letting it go or abandoning this is not something that is done easily. We need to be shown over and over again that fire will burn us. So there are preliminaries that must take place before we jump fully into this subject. We need a kind of preparation, some tools with which to work with for a time to get a feeling for how we function in this world. It is not an impossible situation as proven by those who have woken up throughout history. Self control is necessary or we cannot have the right approach to this subject. But self control is not what it appears to be at first. You must settle yourself with those things that can be settled with your ordinary mind. Then, when there is some space, some calmness, one can begin to focus using the light of attention.

    This is my take on this, and it won’t make any difference to anyone else if they don’t enter into this directly and just get stuck on the words. The words are never it.

  8. Thanks Anonymous for taking the time to respond. I would not disagree with what your wrote.

  9. Dear Venkat,

    [You made a significant observation in the subthread. Because of its importance, I am bringing it to the main thread so that it gets the attention it deserves from all the readers.]

    You say: “YSR was critiquing Patanjali’s yoga, but the logic he applied should be relevant for Advaita too.”

    What you say is indisputable.
    But kindly note the difference between the two systems with regard to the denial of doership (kartutva) to the individual.

    In the Patanjali system, the individual (they call puruSha) does not have kartrutva at all as per their proposition. Still they suggest that the puruSha has to take up “action” (in the form of yoga – control of thought etc.) in order to escape suffering.

    Advaita does not deny doership to the individual at the stage where he is having the idea that “I am the experiencer”; “I am happy; “I am suffering” and so on. He has obviously experiencership (bhoktrutva). The bhoktrutva goes hand in hand with kartutva. Hence Advaita does not deny doership to the individual (in Advaita we call jIva).

    The niShkriyatva and nischalatva arise only after the mithyatva is experientially realized. IOW, as long as jIva thinks that he is suffering, s/he has kartrutva, so he can take up action to ameliorate his sukha and dukha. If at this stage itself, the doership is denied, the denial has no meaning except as empty words.

    Looked from the position of the world, there is doership for brahman. From brahman’s POV, there is no doership. That is to say, once the mithyatva of the world is realized experientially, as clearly as we see the unreality of the last night’s dream, it is not possible even to say whether kartrutva is there or is not there – once again like the happenings in the dream (Have they happened or not?). Hence it becomes indefinable (anirvacanIya).

    Sage Vasishta also suggests that the world should be contemplated as ‘mithya’ as a step towards the realization of jagat as brahman.


  10. Ramesam
    I started my advaita journey with Aparoksha Anubhuti (AA) but your article gave me a new perspective on AA. I have been reading AA all along, but I always stopped at verse #89 -15 steps described in subsequent sections, I thought, were preparatory Patanjali type meditations. And I wondered why these steps came after the “You are That” statement. After reading your blog now I beginning to think that these 15 steps are more like “Nidhidhyasana” where one thinks of “Brahman & Brahman only” at each step.
    One thing I need to admit is that I could not construct the three worldviews you described after reading the entire AA. It will really help if you could elaborate more on how these worldviews emerged – you might want to point to a sequence of some verses.
    I would like to comment that AA could be studied before or/and after the study of Upanishads – this is really a treasure trove of key Upanishad statements on Jiva-Brahman Aikyam(union).
    If it helps Anonymous who asked about translation version of AA – I loved and stuck to the one by Swami Vimuktananda. I will be happy to mail a PDF upon request

    • Hi Vijay,

      Swami Vimuktananda’s translation is the one I use. I mentioned it in my post to Ramesam but now I don’t see it. It must have gotten cut off. But, thanks for the offer.

      I also have SN Sastra’s AA which looks okay, too.

  11. Hi Vijay,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Yes, I agree Swami Vimuktananda’s is a good translation – I must have myself read it about half a dozen times!

    In fact, if you have seen, I have given his translations under each verse.
    However, some of the words he chose are always not very good, e.g. ‘earth’ for clay.

    I have added a little more on the three worldview construction in my reply to a friend. Shri YSR speaks about it near the verses # 70 or so.

    Each verse is very profound and has a depth in meaning. What you say is very true. Instead of just reading a shloka’s translation and feeling smug, it is always better to get detailed commentary of a learned Vedic scholar whenever we read a scripture.


  12. Ramesam,

    In stanza #3, there are 4 preliminary qualifications such as vairagya (dispassion) that are mentioned. It is not clear in the following stanzas what the other 3 qualifications are. Can you state what they are?

    Because of my background, the Krishnamurti’s and Buddhism, the above stanza’s referral to austerities through propitiating Hari is a kind of thorn to my conceptual image of what ‘Knowledge’ might be and the relationship that austerities would have to this. This seems more of a cultural ‘view’ rather than a universal one if such as thing exists. In the Buddhist context, the Buddha clearly showed that austerities was not a condition for knowledge. Can you explain further what is implied here?

  13. Thanks, Anon, for the question.

    It just proves what I said in the last para of my response to Vijay.

    Shri YSR answers your question very well in his explanation at:

    His commentary on the first Invocatory verse explains the propitiating aspect too from a Non-dual perspective. (As you scroll down, you find links to all the pages).

    Please take a look.


  14. Hello Ramesam
    The translations go up to #13. The real meat of YSR’s commentary is from verses 129 thru 144 Videos 6F thru 8F. Please hurry up – or you may want to go to these verses first:) Brahmarshi has given a very clear explanation of Brahmakar vritti but I am missing some the crucial details because of my limited Telugu knowledge. (This commentary is in Telugu!)


  15. Ramesam,

    Thanks for the reply. I wanted to make sure of what the 4 preliminary requisites were and you answered. Still, the reference to austerities and my question above goes unanswered. It would be good if there were an explanation that is taken out of the medieval religious thinking of the culture. Is it possible?

    Moving on to stanza #5:
    In stanza #5, we are introduced to Atman, the seer, which is stated to be permanent, and the seen is said to be impermanent. This is said to be conviction, viveka. The word conviction seems to point to an ‘inference’ rather than a reality, or to put it into different terms, a conceptual truth as opposed to an absolute truth. The reason I say this is because inferring the seer and the seen does not lift the veil of ignorance. It is not the ‘knowledge’ that Sankara, and all the sages before and after, are ultimately talking about, vidya.

    This stanza seems to have its equivalent in Theravada as the arising or appearance of the ‘stable observer’ which discerns that we are not the body, feelings, thoughts, or any mental formation. There is a clear experience of the observer and the observed. This stable observer is a kind of awareness that spontaneously appears through mindfulness, a paying attention to the ephemeral nature of everything. It is perhaps the first true glimpse of conceptual truth. It is also pointed out that ultimately, the stable observer is also abandoned/let go of, and is not permanent or ultimate in its nature. I don’t seem to be able to wrap my head around Atman, so to speak. Nowhere in Buddhism or the 2 K’s, do you find any permanent or eternal state. Everything is in flow. Nothing is fixated on or stated to have a permanent existence, or is an entity. Because I see wisdom in Advaita, I am making an effort to sort through the terminology to see some correspondence with other teachings and experiential possibilities. Help me out!

    • Anon,

      Many thanks for your strimulating contributions to the thread – and my apologies for not joining in as I have a number of other things on at present.

      Whilst not wanting to dissuade you from posting at all, I would ask if you could refrain from bringing other traditions into the discussion. This is very much a forum for discussing Advaita. Most of the readers will be neither knowledgeable nor interested in other teachings so your references are likely to ‘fall on stony ground’ in any case.

      I suggest that you can ask questions which, in your own understanding, may be relevant to Buddhism, without actually referring to these directly. As long as the discussion is clearly relevant to Advaita – no problem (for the site or for other readers). I do suggest, though, that trying to learn Advaita from a standpoint of Buddhism is not such a good idea. Obviously you cannot instantly forget your Buddhist background. But if your mind is filled with Buddhistic arguments and concepts, it is never going to be completely open to Advaitin ones. You must have heard the story of the Zen master pouring tea into the seeker’s cup and continuing to pour whilst the liquid overflowed onto the floor.

      Best wishes,

  16. Anon,

    Thank you for your commitment to study Advaita and seeing the “wisdom in Advaita.”

    You ask: “It would be good if there were an explanation that is taken out of the medieval religious thinking of the culture. Is it possible?”

    Looks that you have not read Shri YSR’s commentary on the Invocatory verse. As I said in my previous comment, he did answer the question from the perspective of Advaita and you can see there that it was NOT any “medieval religious thinking.”

    Next you refer to verse # 5 and “viveka.”
    You say: ” This is said to be conviction, viveka. The word conviction seems to point to an ‘inference’ …”

    Yes, I agree Swami Vimuktananda used the word conviction in his translation. He did not say “viveka” was conviction. What he meant was that the seeker should be convinced about the seer-seen difference after his/her due analysis/study discriminating between the eternal and transitory.
    You will find a clear amplification by YSR at p: 9, link for which I have given in my previous comment replying to you.

    The third point you make is: “I am making an effort to sort through the terminology to see some correspondence with other teachings …”

    If I want to understand Advaita, it would be quite unrewarding, IMHO, to approach the subject from the standpoint of another theory. Advaita is far too unique. Comparative study may be useful for academic purposes, but has little value for an honest seeker. An open clear mind will help much better. If I want to see a glacier, I better not do so through a colored glass. To make the point clearer, does it make sense if I say I want to understand, suppose, Buddhism and therefore “I am making an effort to sort through the terminology to see some correspondence with” my devotion to revered God Rama/Krishna?


  17. Ramesam,

    I just wanted to address your last paragraph above. What you probably don’t understand about me is that I am not a card carrying Buddhist, JK-ite, or U.G.-ite. I have my own experience within which to enquire. The above are just background noise. But the similarities of Advaita to Buddhism are too great to be unnoticed and not seen. Personally, I am not making a comparative study but one of direct experience. If something rings true it has no sectarian belief to get caught in. It is universal. I am not trying to make Buddhism or the 2K’s superior to Advaita. I am trying to understand where this experience of Atman comes in. It is not my experience and it wasn’t the experience of these other sages. It’s a legitimate question. Following Sankara’s AA for me is very clear the way he expounds it. It mirrors my own experience and am not at odds with it. The stumbling block is the inference of Atman, not Brahman. How can Atman be identical with Brahman and yet be separately referred to? I can get passed the words eternal, even Self-Realization, but it still doesn’t explain to me how you divide up Brahman into a part? One without a second means just that to me. I hope you can understand what I’m driving at. No offense is meant by my questions.


    I get your point and am trying to be respectful regarding what this site is attempting. I’m trying to be non-sectarian as I cannot imagine Truth residing exclusively in any camp.

  18. Anon,

    Thank you for your comment.

    You write: “… how you divide up Brahman into a part? ”

    Neither Advaita nor any Advaitin considers Atman (or Atma) to be different from brahman. Both words point to the same Oneness which is indivisible.

    I do not think I divided brahman anywhere. Can you please point out where was it done?


  19. Ramesam has been very generous in replying the several queries of Anon and Venkat – which, altogether, have added much value to the original post. Thanks due to him.

    Since Venkat and Ramesam have made some comments about the Patanjali system, I take the opportunity of including here part of a discussion I have recently had elsewhere. I would welcome any comments from anyone, hoping that what I add here is not altogether irrelevant.

    Comment on KH’s answer to Are there any similarities between Solipsism and Advaita Vedanta?

    Me: With all respects for your views I can’t see how the subtle body (Sukshma sharira) – even if we take citta as the seat of Antakarana – can be the transcendental self (noumenon), rather than this being the Self (atman-brahman).

    You seem to be subscribing to a combination of Samkhya idealism and Yogic methods, since you are giving such prominence to them, but to my knowledge they have no direct relationship to classical Advaita Vedanta, that of Shankara, least of all AV being the ‘conclusion’ of the former. According to Sankara Smritis (Samkhya among others) are equivalent to inference by not being based on the Agamas and depend for their validity on the latter… ‘Advaita is the only system of thought represented in all the Upanishads… there is no trace of Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita or any other school down to the period when Bhaskaracharya’s or even Yamunacharya’s work put in their appearance’ – S’UDDHA-SHANKARA-PRAKRIYA-BHASKARA, p. 31 – SS Satchidanandendra Saraswati.

    KH: In Dakshinamurthy strotram acharya says that the world is like a reflection of a city inside a mirror. The reflection is the phenomena, real city is the noumena, there can be no doubt. So I ask you to explain me what does he mean by mirror? It has got to be the transcendental self. Don’t you agree?

    The classical Samkhya has problems. The concept of multiple Purusha is one example. When I say Samkhya I mean the Samkhya of Upanishad and Vedanta. The Samkhya of Katha Upanishad is identical to Acharya’s philosophy. The Vedas have sweeping authority. That what is mentioned in Vedas can not be refuted when we interpret Acharya’s teachings. You can compare the verses 1:3:3 to 1:3:11 of Katha Upanishad with Dakshinamurthy Strotram. You should be able to understand why I said AV is a conclusion of Samkhya. Vivartavada is built upon Samkhya Satkaryavada. How can you deny that? How can you understand Vivartavada without understanding Samkhya? …(Thread has continued)

  20. Ramesam,
    I am not saying you divided anything up. This is not about you. It is about the model of Advaita and the introduction to Atman. Stating Brahman as being everything is something I have an affinity for. I don’t know what place Atman has in any of this. Nothing in my experience points to any permanent being, essence, or appearance/thing. Even the dynamic of the body/mind continuum has no personal attributes that are not illusory. It is not bound by culture, conception, or individual point of view. So, why should I accept that there is such a thing as Atman as Sankara states in sloka #5 as a permanent something? I see no difference between the seer and the seen. It seems to be an imaginary separation that ignorance creates. Provisionally, I can accept it, but not as a permanent fixture.

    I say all of this in the spirit of enquiry where that light is magnified and all things are seen. Of course, if what I say makes no sense to you, you can just leave it. It doesn’t stop the enquiry, though. The enquiry is not comparative.

  21. Anon,

    I am very happy to see the spirit of inquiry with which you are posing the questions.
    I am also happy to readily share my own thoughts, as always.
    However, I would like to say, with all humility, that we have at this site fortunately much more competent and knowledgeable Members like Martin, Dennis, Venkat and others who can provide more authentic and convincing answers to your questions. I request their kind intervention and I appeal to them to share their wisdom.

    I am taking the first shots just because you happened to address your comment to me.

    Let me at the outset admit that I am also, like you, a seeker. Therefore, what I say here will naturally be circumscribed by my understanding and experience.

    With these caveats in place, I attempt my replies.

    Anon: “Stating Brahman as being everything is something I have an affinity for. I don’t know what place Atman has in any of this.”

    R: As I clarified already, please treat Atman and brahman as two alternate words. The difference is in the Sanskrit “root” from which the two words are derived. Atman comes from “at” to breathe, to spread. brahman comes from “brih” to expand. It makes no difference to me which word you use.

    Anon: “Nothing in my experience points to any permanent being, essence, or appearance/thing.”

    R: You are absolutely right. I don’t think anyone who has a head on his/her shoulder can dispute with what you say. I am pretty sure that almost all of us agree with that statement within the limitations of our own experience.

    Advaita also agrees with that.
    It even explains the reason for this situation. What we call our world and our knowledge and experience etc obviously cannot transcend the limits of the apparatus we use to gain that experience/knowledge. Our apparatus consists of the 5 senses + mind. They can show only the phenomenal world, come what may. Even if we think that we understood some “superduper” thing, it will also be within the ability of our mind to imagine.

    So how does one know at all if there is anything more to it?
    Advaita says that as long as we wrack our brains within ourselves, all we can ever know will be necessarily confined to the “direct perception of the 5 senses and inference drawn by the mind.” Those are the ONLY two means we can get all our knowledge. So it suggests that we may take the word of a genuine well-wisher just for our consideration. We examine it, break it, test it and if we find something new well and good. Otherwise, we have at least tried.

    Advaita offers as that most important third means to knowledge what it calls as the “testimonial.” It offers some provisional tool kit too to go about testing what it says.

    As a prelim step, it suggests that if we find that everything changes in our experience, it is useless to go by that fickle experience to conclude anything. But then, it points out, something must have been there which is knowing those changes. You experience a thought., a sight, a song. They all appear and go. But you obviously are not those things coming and going, because you are there more permanently than them. You did not disappear with every thought. You know you were there as Steve or Stan when you were 5 yrs old, 25 yrs old, the name may have changed to Anon at 50 or 60, but ‘you’ are there.

    Advaita does not say you are permanent. But relative to the changing things, you are permanent. It asks you like that to continue the investigation.
    Cutting short the long story, you will reach a situation where you cannot even say whether anything “IS’ or “NOT-IS.” You will not even know how to talk about IT. You shut your mouth in Silence.
    Advaita does not take you there. It wants you to go on with the investigation yourself. It gives a few milestones come across by others in such an investigation. They may or may not help you.

    Anon: “Even the dynamic of the body/mind continuum has no personal attributes that are not illusory. It is not bound by culture, conception, or individual point of view. So, why should I accept that there is such a thing as Atman as Sankara states in sloka #5 as a permanent something?”

    R: Agreed. No quarrel from my side.
    I already briefly indicarted the Advaita position above.

    Anon: “I see no difference between the seer and the seen. It seems to be an imaginary separation that ignorance creates. Provisionally, I can accept it, but not as a permanent fixture.”

    R: That is also Okay.

    Advaita also does not disagree. But it says, the investigation has not yet come to the last point. There is more work to do.
    For example, you bring in a new animal “ignorance” saying that “ignorance creates.”

    Find out why it does so, what is ignorance? From where it has come? What is the nature of the seer? Is it just a theoretical construct or do I really experience the subject – object (seer-seen) non-difference? If seer-seen are one, what is it that separates them and what is it that relates them even during separation?

    Advaita has several help lines on offer to a seeker to proceed with the inquiry in the above manner.


  22. I am not going to be as mild and courteous as Ramesam in my following well considered reactions to Anon’s queries.

    First of all, Anon. has the habit of personalizing everything (me, my):
    ‘I have an affinity for…’… ‘Why should I accept…? … ‘Provisionally, I can accept…’… I see no difference’… HUMILITY

    ‘Nothing in my experience… ‘ SINCERITY

    Anon’s style is brash, contentious, and self-confident (too much so), taking issue with every and anything anyone says… he does not show respect or proper manners in his interactions with others. All this I am saying is of course from the dualist viewpoint– debates are conducted in the vyavahara level, as we all know – but I am not asking for excuses (such as age) for what I am here saying.
    Now, here are a few comments I am, unapologetically, making for anyone’s consideration. Staying only with two of the above samples,

    1) ‘I see no difference between “seer and seen“. It seems to be an imaginary separation that ignorance creates.’ Anon.

    If so, Anonymous is a self-realized individual (jiva), something one is entitled to say… again from vyavahara and based on that single statement. ACCOMPLISHMENT

    2) ‘Nothing in my experience points to any permanent being, essence, or appearance/thing.’

    Master dixit.

    Pace Ramesam, anyone can observe that not only that statement doesn’t prove anything , but that, being the exact opposite of what Advaita Vedanta teaches, may be Anon. could do well by following a serious and persevering study of the latter – as many of us have done – before making that bold, self-confident statement. Not a good foundation towards understanding something as serious and thought-provoking as AV.

    Qualifications for the path? NONE NEEDED

  23. Martin,

    My only suggestion to you is to try and let go of your own reactions and start reading what is actually written by me. Whatever you think of me, is not the issue. The issues are the questions of enquiry. What you have done is exactly what you criticize me for, personalization. Sankara’s AA is not about psychology.

  24. Personal or individual views, comments, and opinions cannot be other what they are – though one should be as impersonal, neutral or objective, as possible.

    My assessment of Anon’s (whoever he is) contribution to our discussions in AV was based on the evidence, as reflected by his words and tendencies or habits as reflected in those very words. However, I omitted to add something important (to be born in mind, by myself first):

    Interficite errores, hominem diligite – condemn the errors, but love the man.
    Anon must surely be a man… (hiding) behind a mask.

  25. Martin,

    This thread is about Sankara’s AA and not about anybody’s personality. Please do us all a favor and stop this ad hominem. It says more about you than it does me.

  26. Ramesam

    There is little to add to your response to Anon, except perhaps the following, the first verse of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Ulladu Narpadu:

    Since we (the perceivers) see the world, the acceptance of the first principle with power to exhibit itself into various manifestations is beyond dispute. The various names and forms of the pictures (called the world), the jiva who beholds it [venkat: ie the see AND the seen], the screen that supports and sustains the pictures and the light of awareness that illumines them – all these are but the Supreme Being [Brahman if you will] who is the Real Self [Atman if you will].

    Anon, I think you have misunderstood the viveka between seer and seen. It is to continually investigate the seer (the ‘I’, hence Maharshi’s “who am I”), and discard what is commonly seen (regarded) as the seer (body, thoughts, feelings, etc) as neti, neti (not this, not this), until all that is left is the pure consciousness of deep sleep. Tat twam asi.

  27. Venkat,

    I agree with you that the investigation of the seer is the focus of vicara. It’s not clear what you meant by my misunderstanding viveka between seer and seen, though.

  28. Venkat,

    Not sure why you qualified this: “until all that is left is the pure consciousness of deep sleep.” Deep sleep is not pure Consciousness; it is pure Consciousness + ignorance (we know nothing in deep sleep). But I like your explanation of seer-seen viveka.

  29. Thank you Dennis.

    As you know there is a school of thought that says deep sleep is indeed the pure consciousness of jnana – both Maharshi and Sri Atmananda clearly ascribe to this. And there are passages in the upanishads that support this viewpoint.

    Ignorance, Maya, is seeing the world as separate from ‘I’. In deep sleep, there is no world, there is just being-consciousness. The concept of a seed ignorance in deep sleep is I think to explain why, on coming out of deep sleep, we are confronted again with our separation and likes/dislikes. Therefore it is only during the waking state that ignorance manifests and it is in that state that we can do the contemplation to remove the ignorance.

    Once this ignorance in the waking state is dispelled, the jnani interprets the experience of the world differently from the jiva. But is there anything different in the way the jnani “experiences” deep sleep relative to the jiva?

    Best wishes,


  30. Venkat,

    Using deep sleep as a metaphor for pure consciousness does nothing to the ignorance that accompanies consciousness in all states of the body/mind because that ‘seed of ignorance’ conditions all cognition of appearances whether in deep sleep or the waking state. In fact, the whole ‘idea’ of the jiva is the ignorance, maya. Indeed, through vicara we see the unreality of the jiva and the deluded cognitions that keep this play going. That storehouse of obscurations is present in all states until the light of awareness (true insight) reveals the cognitive deceptions. This seems to infer that there is no waking, dream, or sleep states for the jnani in the dispelling of ignorance. All those distinctions are maya.

  31. In support of what Venkat wrote we have Br.4 .3.21, 22,23.:

    ‘There is no loss of vision to the seer (in deep sleep) – 4-3-23)

    ‘In deep sleep there is neither ignorance (avidya) nor desire (karma) – Br. Bh.4-3-21.

    ‘… it is not the abscense of the conscious nature that is responsible for want of knowledge, but the abscence of the factors necessary to produce knowledge. Human perception and conception are possible only in the unreal worlds of waking and dream’ – 4.3.31

    Something else: Anon. was right when saying ‘I see no difference between “seer and seen“. It seems to be an imaginary separation that ignorance creates.’ . Imaginary or pratibhasika. This is the triputi functioning in empirical life, but unreal from the highest one..

  32. Martin quotes: ‘In deep sleep there is neither ignorance (avidya) nor desire (karma) – Br. Bh.4-3-21.

    This is because the consciousness of the senses and mental functions are in temporary abeyance in deep sleep. The seeds of ignorance and desire still lie dormant in deep sleep, just as they lie dormant in death, re-appearing once again in re-birth of a body. The waking state provides the opportunity to end the cycle of ignorance which are obscurations of cognitive functions in the form of seeds or tendencies in the mental consciousness storehouse.

  33. Venkat,

    Regarding the deep-sleep state, the ‘projecting’ aspect of avidyA (vikShepa) is indeed absent, whereas it is active in waking and dream states. But the concealing aspect (AvaraNa) is still present. There is undifferentiated, blissful Consciousness there – the ‘causal’ state for the other two – but the blissful experience has a beginning and an end (when we wake up) because there is still the conditioning upAdhi of ignorance.

    Best wishes,

Comments are closed.