Sharp vs. Subtle Intellect

A suggestion has been made elsewhere in these columns that “Vedanta differentiates between what is called ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).”

Experienced Vedantins may differentiate ‘sharp intellect’ from ‘subtle intellect’ in trying to make a point in order to explain contextually some specific concept they would like to amplify on.  But it is doubtful if Advaita Vedanta itself has  anywhere  highlighted the difference between ” ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).” If we ask whether there is a vedAnta vAkya or shruti mantra to support a claim of difference between the two types of buddhi, the answer is perhaps a resounding “No.”

Vedanta does, of course, contrast ‘sUkshma‘ in relation to ‘sthUla‘ form of  many entities (e.g. sharIra, buddhi, loka-s). Bhagavad-Gita too talks of a stratified order from gross to finer when referring to objects to sensory organs to mind to buddhi &c.


There is also an idea promoted in some quarters that  ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) is useful more often in Science whereas ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi) is utilized in Vedantic study. The reason given is that “The former is the analytical mind characteristic of the scientist [whereas] the latter [i.e.] the ability to integrate rather than divide [is the requirement of Vedanta], to see the unity in diversity.”

Though on the face of it the idea seems appealing, there is a blatant conceptual mistake in it doubly committed. It is difficult to assert that  the scientific method adopts exclusively a deductive and analytical reasoning or to claim that Vedanta  is always inductive and synthetic in approach. In fact Science, more often and more easily, reaches the universal or common factor by its method — whether it is the oneness of DNA of a varied form of life or the basic oneness of all materials at atomic and subatomic levels.

On the other hand, whether it is in explaining the process of the origination of pancha bhUta-s (five fundamental elements), panchakOsha prakriya or avastha traya analysis, Vednata too proceeds from gross to finer and finer levels using deductive logic. Characteristically in the Vedanta approach, the permeation or ‘spread’ of the substance increases as we move from coarse to fine textures, very much akin to what we find in scientific analysis.

Further, ‘shruti‘ also resorts to ‘breaking’ down the gross things into its components (reductionist approach like  in Science) when explaining Quitnuplication (panchIkaraNa) or even when the mahAvAkya drives home the central theme of Vedanta. Let us recall, for example, how Aruni teaches the core message of Vedanta,  ‘That thou art,’ to his son in the Chandogyopanishad.

After referring to the entirety of the tree and its parts etc. in the preceding mantras, Aruni (A) asks his son (S) to bring the fruit of the tree (leading from the whole to a part). The conversation then goes on like this in the mantra at VI-ii-1, Chandogya:

A: Break it.

S: It is broken, Sir.

A: What do you see?

S: Seeds, small particles, Revered Sir.

A: Break one of the seeds, my Son.

S: It is broken, Sir.

A:  What do you see in it?

S: Nothing, Sir.

A: What you do not perceive is the subtle essence.

Thus it is by asking his son to gradually decompose the aggregate by ‘breaking and examining the reduced part’ that Aruni points to the imperceptible. Is this not a reductionist approach like any Scientist would do? Can we say it is an integration?

I shall postpone for the present citing example where scientific reasoning follows a totally integrative approach in arriving at stupendous and out of the ordinary conclusions.

I would like to conclude for now with my submission to you that both Science and Advaita Vedanta are similar in approach in their inquiry into the ultimate Truth and both equally follow analytic and integrative methodology as per the demand of the occasion. After all, maybe there is not much to choose between subtle vs. sharp intellect.

38 thoughts on “Sharp vs. Subtle Intellect

  1. Dear Ramesam,

    I didn’t even know that there is an attempt to differentiate between sharp and subtle intellect. As far as the study of Vedanta is concerned to me it seems to be a superfluous distinction. I think that every teacher knows that a student needs an intellect, which has both, sharpness as well as subtlety – the latter I understand as signifying sensitivity which again seems to go along with maturity.

  2. Dear Ramesam,

    Following on from your blog about the correspondence between the scientific and vedantic methods, with which I concur, I’d be interested in your interpretation of the following from V.S.Iyer:

    “Whatever you say about Brahman, it is only an idea, ie drsyam. Reason when applied to drsyam can grasp it; but it can never grasp the drg. Reason can tell you the drg is there, but it cannot grasp it. This is the limit of reason. But the drg is always there; it cannot be known or understood because knowing implies a second thing. But in all acts of knowledge, the drg is there when you are thinking. Hence Brahman is known only in idealessness. It is impossible to be free from Brahman for it is impossible for any thought to arise without it. You must analyse yourself and see that whenever there is drsyam, there must be that (the dry) which is aware of it. When you see this, you know the Atman. Hence Drg-Drsyam analysis is so fundamental and so difficult.”


    • Dear Venkat Ji
      “Reason cannot grasp Drk”

      Our own Shri Ramesam has come up with a four step prakriya to achieve this. ( #22 Process Models .. Advaita Academy). Here is a brief summary:
      All perceivable objects can be grouped into three distinct categories –thoughts/images experienced in mind, sensations in body & all physical things out there.
      Our mind is nothing but name for our thoughts., body comprises of sensations and rest of the things are world outside. Or, simply our entire domain comprises of:
      MIND – BODY – WORLD…………………………….Step 1

      We know that we do not actually perceive any mind or body or objects in the world. We only experience:

      There are no substances like thoughts, sensations & perceptions – only some processes which we name:

      THINKING – SENSING – PERCEIVING ………………………………Step 3

      What we call processes in fact consist of one common element operating behind them:

      KNOWING………………………………………………..Step 4

      This KNOWING is awareness, consciousness, love, being happiness, Brahman…………..


      • Dear Vijay,

        Thanks for your reminder. I agree – I think it is an excellent method (and series of articles) by Ramesam. Sri Atmananda also outlines this method in “Notes to spiritual discourses”.

        I don’t think however that this over-turns V.S.Iyer’s point that “Reason can tell you the drg is there [which as you point out this method of Ramesam’s does], but it cannot grasp it. This is the limit of reason”.

        His point parallels what Nisargadatta said:
        “You can never have knowledge about your Self because Parabrahman cannot be witnessed. You know what you are not – what you are you cannot know.”

        Elsewhere, Iyer has written:
        “Discussion and learning about truth are not useless although they cannot yield finality, because they are riddled with duality, drsyam. The best explanation is silence. To understand an idea means having a duality, ie a knower and a known, drik and drsyam. To rise to a higher level, Brahman, there is no question of understanding for there is no duality there. So long as we speak or write we can never leave duality; hence the only genuine expression of Truth is perfect silence.”

        Sri Atmananda goes further:
        “First from bondage to liberation, and from liberation to pure Consciousness. You have only to come to the deep recognition of the fact that you have always been, that you are, and that you shall ever be the witness. That is all that is needed. First you know that you are the Reality. Then you become it. Then you be it. In being it, both the knowing it and the becoming it expire. The first two were misunderstandings of the ‘being it’, at different levels. The first knowing had an object, the being is objectless knowledge.”

        Best wishes

        • Dear VenkatJI
          OK Reasoning did not grasp Brahman through this prakriya but showed that Reason or that matter any process – thinking, feeling, perceiving… – is Knowing which is awareness.. Brahman only.

          • Dear Vijay,

            Thanks for referring to the 4-step prakriya.
            But no credit for me please.

            It is based on what I learnt from the works of many knowledgeable Sages right from Shankara on and popularized in modern times by Atmananda and the Direct path teachers like Rupert. As pointed out by Venkat, and I am sure you are also aware of it, one should not try to search for “Knowing” as if it is an ‘object’ to be found. The Knowing has to be intuitively experienced. The first few steps are analytical and deductive in approach and the realization of the final step is a subtle understanding. Thus even in this prakriya that you mention, IMHO, we can note that both the analytical and integrative aspects are involved.


        • For me, the difference between your Nisargadatta quote and the Atmananda quote are vast. The whole search for understanding and knowledge is undermined through Nisargadatta’s statement ‘You know what you are not-what you are you cannot know’.

          Atmananda describes an intellectual realization that includes being. Being still involves an entity a self. That self may be free from many misunderstandings, but it is still a self.

          What Nisargadatta represents is NO self. It is an absence of any division and effort to become anything on any level. Something else takes over, so to speak. You are not there and never have been. There is no explaining this as you all try to do. It is totally out of your hands.

        • “First you know that you are the Reality. Then you become it. Then you be it. In being it, both the knowing it and the becoming it expire. The first two were misunderstandings of the ‘being it’, at different levels.”


          • Hi Sitara

            Yes it is, isn’t it. I puzzled over it when I first read it years back. It now makes perfect sense.



  3. Good comment by Venkat!

    Concerning analysis and synthesis (or ‘sharp’ and ‘subtle’), both functions of the intellect – not one without the other – I remember Ramesam once mentioning the discovery of the chemist Kekule who sudenly saw in his mind the hexagonal structure of the benzene molecule after having a reverie. The image in his mind was that of a snake seizing its tail (the mythological ouroboros). He had done a lot of analysis (seeing the different pieces or elements – atoms – related to each other in some fashion) for that final ‘vision’ to happen. The chain of atoms closed on itself giving that structure!

    Einstein expressed himself in similar terms when he once depicted a horizontal row of ‘nodes’ standing for isolated observations which, no matter how many of them one gathers, do not lead by deduction to the resulting ‘vision’ or intuition – which is a synthesis. He said that there is a ‘logical gap’ between the linear row of observations below (analysis or categorization of phenomena) and the the jump figuratively depicted above as a larger node representing the synthesis (hypothesis).

  4. Dear Sitara, Venkat and Martin,

    Thank you all for the very thoughtful inputs that undoubtedly enhance the salience of the message.

    Sitara observed that both sharpness and subtlety of buddhi come into demand on the path of ‘realization.’

    We have the Kathopanishad mantra I-iii-12 which says:
    दृश्यते त्वग्र्ययाबुद्ध्या सूक्ष्मया सूक्ष्मदर्शिभि:
    (dRRishyate tvagryayAbudhyA sUkshmayA sUkshmadarshibhiH)
    Meaning: By seers of subtle and pointed intellect capable of perceiving subtle things, ‘That’ can be seen.
    We can note from the above that both words subtle and sharp (pointed) are used in the mantra.

    However, in order to be sure regarding the points made by me in my post, I contacted a couple of Sanskrit scholars and Vedanta Pundits. Dennis too made a reference to Dr. K. Sadananda whose words he quoted in his post introducing the Topic of the Month essay.

    From our exchanges, it is clear that “there is no direct scriptural statement to differentiate sUkshma vs thIkshNa buddhi.”

    Further, Dr. Sadananda made the observation that “To discover the truth in any field we need viveka – either in the scientific analysis or in spiritual pursuit.” But he would like to differentiate the type of viveka required in perceptual and inferential knowledge (usual in Science) and the type of viveka in the pursuit of Self-knowledge. He adds that “the scriptures talk about only the viveka or the sukshma buddhi needed for spiritual knowledge.”

    I fully agree with Dr. Sadananda that viveka (discrimination) is required whether it is scientific or spiritual pursuit and IMHO, viveka subsumes both aspects of deductive and inductive approaches. Most of the prakriya-s that the upanishads describe usually adopt an analytical and deductive reasoning to start with and lead towards subtle intuitive understanding at the final stage.

    Having said all this, I should mention here the point of caution made by the Vedic Pundit whom I consulted on the matter:
    “We should note that the usage of technical terms in pre – Adi Sankara period was not very strict and even words like “vivarta” “pariNAma” etc were used loosely. Experts say that even in Sanakara bhAShyAs, the usage of technical terms was somewhat loose. Hence discussion on words like tIkshNa buddhi, sUkshma buddhi etc, need not be stretched too far, particularly when they belong to Pre-Shankara periods.”

    From the above I infer that the usage in our ancient scriptures need not be interpreted that they demand only “subtle buddhi” relegating “sharp buddhi” to worldly knowledge.

    Before closing, I will like to draw the attention of the interested readers to the captivating Talk of the Princeton Theoretical Physicist Dr. N. Arkani-Hamed on 6th Nov 2014 at the Perimeter Institute in Canada on “The Quantum Mechanics and Space-time in the 21st Century.” One can see in his presentation the fascinating interplay of both the “sharp and subtle intellect” in the pursuit of Truth in scientific inquiry. The Video link (1Hr 25 min):

    And a beautiful example of how “sharp and subtle buddhi” come into operation in grasping the Advaitic message is the Interview of Rupert by Rick on 25th Oct 2014. The Video link (1Hr 39 min):


  5. Dear Martin & Ramesam

    Just reflecting on this discussion, you both raise the idea of deductive logic being followed by a synthetic / integrative approach that represents the intuitive jump.

    I wonder if there is a synthesis or integration in this field – since synthesis / integration implies the formation of a new concept / understanding about this. Integration may be useful as a staging post, but it still implies a new concept, which our minds take refuge in.

    Is there ultimately only the approach of deductive logic, negation, the neti neti of vedanta. And by negating everything, you do – contrary to what Sadananda says – actually stumble upon the nothing that is everything, rather than forming a new set of concepts about the world, reality and Brahman.

    Bhagavan’s Ulladu Narpadu v.28 says:
    “Like sinking in order to find an object that has fallen into water, diving / sinking / penetrating within ourself, restraining our speech and breath, by means of a sharp intellect [a keen, intense, acute and penetrating power of discernment or attention] we should know the place [or source] where our rising ego rises. Know this.”

    I think Bhagavan is saying that for awareness to become aware of itself, you use the power of increasingly sharp and subtle discernment to disentangle external objects, perceptions, thought and feelings, from that which is aware of all these things. This is akin to what Rupert says in the video link you provided.

    To quote Nisargadatta:
    “Of course you are the Supreme Reality! But what of it? Every grain of sand is God; to know it is important, but that is only the beginning. Discover all you are not. Body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, time, space, being and not-being, this or that – nothing concrete or abstract you can point to is you. A mere verbal statement will not do. You must watch yourself continuously – particularly your mind – moment by moment, missing nothing. This witnessing is essential for the separation of the Self from the not-Self”


    “Dive deeply within yourself and hold onto the ‘I am’. By focusing the mind on the ‘I am’, the sense of being, ‘I am so-and-so’ dissolves. ‘I am a witness only’ remains and that too submerges in ‘I am all’. Then the all becomes One, the undivided, the eternal.”

    Would be interested in your thoughts on this.

    Best wishes


    • Venkat, if i am going to offer some thoughts on your question to Ramesam and myself, it would be by first delineating the meaning of the terms we use and their place within any particular doctrine (in context), or even in general. As I see it, analysis-and-deduction is one thing, and analysis-synthesis quite another; one can easily be led astray by not paying attention to this important distinction.

      Analysis goes hand in hand with induction (reasoning from detailed facts to general principles; or connection of isolated facts by a general hypothesis). Deduction is also a logical procedure, and both are pertinent to science as much as to philosophy. Discrimination (of facts or ideas/concepts) is required in this dual process. Sometimes it has been called by scientists ‘the logic of proof’.

      Once analysis (which includes gathering of facts/observations/ideas or thoughts has been exhaustively done, and based on what is already known (old knowledge), synthesis may, or may not, arise; it would then be new knowledge or understanding, and for this intuition (anubhava) is a conditio sine qua non. This is ‘putting everything together’, that is, ‘integration’, equivalent to ‘synthesis’ (individual revelation?). Scientists have called this ‘the logic of discovery’. May be Ramesam will concur with this account, since he knows more about science than I do.

      In the ‘spiritual science’ of vedanta one needs 1) a prepared mind, 2) shruti – shravana and manana (and discrimination all along) are involved in these two, plus the essential sadhana-catushtaya. 3) Anubhava may occur as a result of nididhyasana or contemplation if not by the first two – again, integration, assimilation or synthesis.

      • Dear Martin

        I would posit that what you have written is a ‘early’ (though actually still quite rare) understanding of the non-dual thesis. And, as you know, I think this can be arrived at by logical reasoning – both analytic and synthetic. I suspect a number of folk believe they have ‘achieved’ jnana as a result of this (admittedly powerful, and peace-yielding) understanding. As you know, in my own clumsy way, I have gone through this analysis / synthesis process to try to prove to myself what it is that is true.

        However the knowledge of non-separation, illusoriness of world / ego is still the presence of a concept of non-ego, rather than the absence of any ego concept. I suspect that what Sri Ramana, Nisargadatta, and JK talk about is a dissolution of that ego-concept, which clearly cannot be ‘done’; it can only happen. However perhaps the probability of such a happening is increased through neti neti – discrimination and discarding of everything that is not real. But surely that is a deconstruction, a de-conditioning, rather than a synthesis.


        • I understand what you are saying, and agree that deconstruction of the ego is the way to go, to begin with; is that not the same thing, in the final analysis, as neti-neti?

          I understand synthesis as coming after analysis, and that new (integrative) understanding is the result thereby; that, also, viveka and intuition (anubhava) are necessary requisites (even just intellectual intuition, I mean).

          Concerning the ego Sri Atmananda is quite lucid, in my opinion; there are many entries in his published ‘Notes’. In one of these, I think he said that the ego should not be a problem, and under No. 512, that the ego is of much help in order to realize the truth (you can check in the index of that compilation).

          After neti-neti we have the mahavakyas, and there is where one should concentrate primarily, i think, besides ‘hearing’ and ‘reflecting’. Greetings, Martin.

  6. Dear Venkat,

    What you say is absolutely right.
    Deductive or inductive approaches are just some names – indicators.
    Anything that an “I” (a separate mind) can do is up to a ‘point.’
    After that ……….. (there is no way to express).
    That’s why taittirIya says ‘yato vacho nivartante …..’ (II-ix-1).

    The famous Vedantic metaphor of the moth ‘touching the flame’ too points to the same thing. The mind, with its own conscious action can move towards the ‘doorway’ to Infinity (so to say) and once the threshold is touched, who is there and what can be said? No way to express. Can’t even say ‘nothing’.


  7. Dear Anonymous,

    Almost all your posts ‘echo’ UG’s statements.
    That’s the Ultimate Truth (or Falsity – do words matter there?!!) which he speaks of. What he said was incontestable.

    UG’s technique (if one can say so) was to pull the rug from below the feet of the questioner in order to jolt him/her out of his ‘comfort zone’ or to shatter the unverified ‘taken-for-granted-assumptions’ behind his questions. To the best of my information, he never went in search of questioners in order to tell them their questions were meaningless. If I am not wrong, perhaps, in this aspect your ‘posts’ mark a difference from UG.

    In the observation you made about the quotes given by Venkat from Nisargadatta and Atmananda, you seem to smell a ‘difference’ that is non-existent, if one carefully understands the thrust of the two messages (with correct and appropriate understanding of the words like ‘you’, self, Self used in their sentences) without being facetiously picky of the words. In fact, I find that their teachings do not really differ from what UG pointed to and what you want to stress on.

    Even in your own expression, you are making certain presumed unverified meaning, implicitly, to the words as you use them. For example you wrote:
    “What Nisargadatta represents is NO self. It is an absence of any division and effort to become anything on any level. Something else takes over, so to speak. You are not there and never have been. There is no explaining this as you all try to do.”

    What exactly the words ‘self’ in the first sentence or the ‘you’ in the last but one sentence stand for? Is the same meaning ascribed to “You” in the last but one sentence and the ‘you’ in the last sentence of yours?

    I am not denying the message you are conveying. We all (including you) are aware of it. Words are used just to remind the ‘separate self’, which keeps popping up, that there is no separation. Or perhaps, it is all (including your posts and this response) are just a happening (or not happening!) of that “Something else so to speak” which ‘took over’!!! Why to go on beating about it?


  8. Ramesam,

    Reminding the separate self that there is no separation, doesn’t bring an end to the sense of separation. Just as repeating that everything is Brahman, doesn’t make you realize that everything is Brahman.. These are all activities within the field of consciousness and consciousness and the sense of me are inextricably linked to each other. Take away either, and the other disappears along with it. What is clear to me is that no activity that any of you engage in or propose is going to take you to your presumed ‘promised land’. None of you are there and yet you can talk about it, organize it, analyze it, and it goes on and on. You all seem to know what it takes or doesn’t take and yet you remain essentially the same self you seem to have started with in pursuit of a ‘true’ self, what you call Self-Realization. What has changed is the amount of data you have built up about all of this. But, it’s not about the data. The data points to more data, subtler and subtler, variation upon variation. It leads nowhere. If you really come to this, how can you continue to do the same thing over and over? You can’t. If you want some light to shine, you’ve got to stand aside to let it in. It comes in through the crack in your data.

  9. UG and every other saint or sage become an impediment at some point. It’s impossible to duplicate their lives or have their words change you into something you think you should be. UG was helpful at some point, so was Nisargadatta and others. But your life has nothing to do with theirs and I don’t link myself or align myself to any of them. Any meaning I attach to them is my own projection. We all meet people in our lives who we ‘think’ represent this or that to us. More times than not, this perception changes. This moment has nothing to do with anyone. The mind creates fiction, lots of it.

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    “Reminding the separate self that there is no separation, doesn’t bring an end to the sense of separation.”

    Does the above statement not indicate the rising of a ‘separate self’ trying to tell another separate self it presumes to see out there apart from itself and then justify its own rising by attributing aspirations and goals and struggles and failings to the ‘seen’ separate self?!!

    “The mind creates fiction, lots of it.”

    Good. Let it. Why bother? Who or what is there to redeem or to preach to.
    Let all things and happenings be as “IS.” Who and what for desire a “change”? Whatever is, IS.

  11. “Who or what is there to redeem or to preach to?”

    Only a preacher, or a redeemer… someone who sees himself as such (a separate individual or ego – as Ramesam clearly shows), and others also as individuals (poor souls) mired in ignorance. His intentions, doubtless, are good, but… why are his words not convincing to anyone?

  12. Ramesam,

    You cannot let all things and happenings be as ‘Is’. Again, one of my main points. ‘You’, yourself, stand opposed to this concept. No matter how much you tell yourself to let all things be as ‘Is’, it is not possible. This is a JKism that doesn’t work. It can help relax some things, but the essential individuation that you call me, persists, that continues to feel separate no matter what experience it is having.

    My ‘beef’ with this thread of subtle vs sharp intellect is that however you think about it, ‘you’ still persist and create ‘experience’ to give meaning and continuity to a self that feels separated from others. None of these classifications approach the existence of self, but are activities of this separation.

    The question arises if there is anything you can do about it. Can we get rid of it? Transcend it? Understand it? Personally, I see all attempts at un-doing this self fall short. We didn’t create our existence and have no power over it. If there is any such thing as ‘Original Nature’, Brahman, what have you, this individual has no ability to experience it. Some have equated Original Nature with the absence of self as a being. This also seems to equate with a ‘true death’ experience as told by some, such as Jesus, Ramana, UG, Nisargadatta, and others. This is clearly a mystery not able to be understood from our points of view. A coup de grace of sorts.

  13. Dear Anonymous,

    I have to write here under the disadvantage of not knowing if:

    i) You yourself are a Teacher wearing a Guru-hat, abhorrent to leave your high-ground and having a theory of your own to preach/promote;


    ii) You are like any one of us gathered here on a Non-dual plank trying to decipher if something Universal is present beyond the individual ‘self’ and if so what it is.

    If it is the former, I can see that it is a confused teaching. For example:

    On one hand you say: “… It is totally out of your hands.”
    On the other hand you advise: “If you want some light to shine, you’ve got to stand aside to let it in.”

    Again you say: “You are not there and never have been.”
    But you postulate: “You cannot let all things and happenings be as ‘Is’.”

    You raise the question: “…. if there is anything you can do about it.”
    You throw up hands in helplessness: “This is clearly a mystery not able to be understood from our points of view.”

    To top everything you declare: “No words are convincing. That is my whole point.”

    At least on my part, I do not know how else to communicate if words are barred or banished or found totally inadequate.


    If you think you are like us, I have a simple question. Please respond, if you like to, in simple straight words without abstruseness as you would answer if I were to ask you what had you eaten for breakfast.

    And my question is: Have you watched and carefully listened to Rupert in the Video I have provided a link for? If yes, you would have found that the situation is not as hopeless as you imagine. If not, Please listen to him with a spirit to understand what he is pointing to rather than to pick some argument.

    The question we are concerned with here is about ‘just being aware’
    — not any big things like Self-realization or even “promised land” as you seem to assume in your posts.


  14. Ramesam,

    Not a teacher in any fashion. I’m just like you. There are always going to be contradictions.

    I’ve seen the video awhile back. I’m sure he’s genuinely talking about his own experience. I have no argument against him. If you want the experience of what he is talking about, you can have it. My only argument is against the conceptual way that the posters here talk about things they really don’t know about. It’s a memorized blueprint. I rest my case.

    • Dear Anonymous,

      “Not a teacher in any fashion. I’m just like you.”

      Good News for us! Thank you.

      “There are always going to be contradictions.”

      Precisely. That is the reason we opt to share and discuss here our understanding (within the overarching premise of Non-duality) so that the contradictions get sorted out or minimized.

      “My only argument is against the conceptual way that the posters here talk…”

      Excellent again. We all (the posters) admit that what we talk here is ‘conceptual’ and NOT the real Thing. We are aware of it. You must have also realized that we are aware of it.

      But what is surprising to us is why do you have to hammer that very same point (which we all agree to and are aware of) 54 times?
      I say so, for there is precious little new clarification / additional info in all your 54 posts other than that point.

      You must be knowing that ‘mind’ is the only instrument we have with which we can probe and understand the things. By its very character ‘mind’ can and will function in a ‘conceptual’ realm only because mind is nothing but ‘concepts.’ Words also fall within the terrain of the mind only. That being the case, how do you expect any discussions or exchange of thoughts to take place outside the ‘concepts’ of the mind?

      And, by the way, where exactly the “True” understanding (which you seem to stress) has to come about? Is it not within the so-called ‘mind’?

      Admittedly then mind has to use itself in order to transcend itself and not be itself an “impediment” in the process of going beyond ‘concepts’.

      It is like trying to lift yourself by your own boot strings!

      A contradiction. But this is nothing new or something only we have discovered!

      You may call it “Synchronicity.” A discussion is going on currently at another Advaita List on how does that contradiction get resolved.

      Shri Y. R. Bhaskar in his post today said something on these lines: Shankara clarifies this contradiction beautifully in samanvayAdhikaraNa sUtra bhAshya : the shAstra does not directly teach brahman as an object, but it teaches the jnAna (Knowledge) that would eradicate all distinctions like jnAtru, jneya, jnAna (knower, known and knowing). So, shAstra‘s role ends in teaching what is anAtma (not-Self) which is wrongly superimposed on Atman. Even for the shruti, it is not possible to teach brahman / Atman directly.

      Our discussions (posts) in this thread are also about the removal of the false superimpositions. We are NOT talking about that nameless inexpressible “something” (your word). I hope and trust, Mr. Anonymous, you note this point.

      I hope Dennis and Dr. Sadananda also would notice the comment made by Shri Bhaskar because it touches on the other ‘point’ for which I started this thread. The teaching of ‘shruti‘ also being totally WITHIN the domain of the so-called ‘not-Self’ (the ‘objective world of science’ in the terms of Dr. Sadananda), it is not logical to say that we can differentiate the approach in Science and Vedanta (scriptures) calling one as deductive and the other as inductive.


      • In truth, I never felt my point(s) were ever acknowledged, especially your admittal that what is talked about here is conceptual, and not realized. I sincerely apologize for the hammering on this. Perhaps I did not recognize any concurrence until now.

        I don’t think there is anything to be done with mind. It is there and it functions, some better than others. Of course we have to use it to communicate to each other and live our lives. But, perhaps this is where we diverge. I don’t think mind is the instrument to either know, understand, or realize our true nature. Mind, as you say, only deals in concepts, not truth nor our real nature, which is universal and beyond all concepts. How could mind approach that, or realize that? I don’t think it is meant to. I also think it is a mistake to think that mind transcends itself.

        What approaches our own ‘true’ nature is our self awareness, our existence, our being. This is not the same as playing with concepts. It is a ‘centering’. Being self-aware is what allows our true nature to manifest itself. Concepts do not. This awareness, much as Rupert states, allows you to fall out of the habitual reliance on concepts to define you. In a way, it is a falling out of your head and allowing our true nature to reveal itself. This deepens as our true nature grabs more and more of our awareness and the realization that we are not a ‘person’, an entity, becomes apparent. It begins to commune with its own nature which weakens and undermines the concept of being an individual self. This is probably what the Christians call ‘conversion’, ‘thy will, not my will’.

        Knowing thyself is to forget the self. To commune with our true nature is what leads us out of the notion of separate self/entity. It is not through the mind, but through the revelation of our true nature to that self awareness that we see what we are not. If this is not active in your life, no amount of study and discussion can substitute.

        Maybe there are parallel explanations in Vedanta that run along the same lines but they are lost to me through the language that many of you speak and interpret from. I can barely follow many of the posts here. And, maybe you can barely follow mine. lol. It’s a challenge for me to explain any of this. I feel inadequate trying to do so. Sorry.

        • Thank you for the above message, Anonymous.

          You say: “And, maybe you can barely follow mine.”

          No, I don’t think so!
          I could see no difference at all in the essence – the core message of what you said and what we are trying to point to.

          The terminology and the sort of metaphor used (in compensating for the limitation of the ‘word’) are rather different. It will help to achieve harmonization of the terms quickly if one knows the background from which one comes. One need not, IMHO, wear a mask of being anonymous. After all, we know that it is only a separate ‘self’ that speaks (or rather, it is only as a separate self that the ‘Nameless’ speaks!).

          The word “Experience” as used by Rupert does not carry the same sense as most of the people use it. I could be wrong, but it looks to me that you too misunderstood him.

          ‘Mind’ is another difficult word. It has varied meanings depending on the author and also the context. One has to be wary of all these differences before one can comment on any system or teaching.

          If you would like to continue to participate in our discussion, it looks to me that we have to harmonize our usage of the word ‘mind.’ I will be happy to clarify my point after I know the teaching/system that is in the background of your expression.

          As Martin commented quoting Gaudapada on the post of Venkat, we have to bear in mind that ‘mind’ is nothing different from that ‘Nameless’ Oneness in the ultimate analysis – for, there cannot be two things, a-dvaita.


          • Ramesam,

            The quote that Martin gave a better translation to of Gaudapada is something that one can only understand if one is truly realized. It is not something that you can start with, discuss, and practice to achieve it. Otherwise, we are just discussing more conceptual ideas.

            I don’t have a singular discipline or path that guides me except the direct experience of this self-awareness that I mentioned. It is akin to Nisargadatta’s ‘I Am’. It also has a connection to the Christian practice of the presence of God. But, I don’t associate this with either. It has nothing to do with the conceptual mind and is not involved with any kind of analysis or path. It is a gateway for the revelation of our true nature. For me, it is the only ‘practice’ that exists, if you can call it that. It takes precedence over any other experience I may have or any attempt to explain it. The closest Sanskrit word that I can think of is samadhi, but I can’t be sure that this is a correct analogy.

            I don’t know what you mean by misunderstanding Rupert. I don’t dismiss what he is saying. Maybe you could explain it better why you think I may have misunderstood his use of the word ‘experience’.


            • Dear Anonymous,

              Thank you for the brief note re: your “the direct experience of this self-awareness.”

              Normally the word “experience” is used in the sense of the presence of subject-predicate-object (called ‘tripuTi’ in Vedanta signifying multiplicity) i.e. ‘experiencer – experiencing – the experienced.’ For Rupert ‘experience’ is just ‘Awareness.’

              You also seem to use this word in a different sense than the usual. The use of the word ‘mind’ in your expression too seems to connote a different meaning. But because you did not ask for further discussion on ‘mind’, I shall leave it there.

              In closing, may I request you for a more detailed Note, maybe as a separate article / blog, explaining for the benefit of all what you mean by, when you say:
              “It has nothing to do with the conceptual mind and is not involved with any kind of analysis or path. It is a gateway for the revelation of our true nature. For me, it is the only ‘practice’ that exists, if you can call it that. ”

              The words mind, experience, awareness, true nature, conceptual mind and who and what is the ‘author’ speaking to us all need to be clarified as use those terms in your essay, so that it will be easy for us to understand.


            • We all agree that words and concepts are necessary, ineluctable, for communication to be possible.

              Seems to me that Anonymous did not understand what I meant when I suggested that there may be a better translation of that verse by Gaudapada than the one by Nikhilananda which I posted, even though this last makes perfect sense. I said that because, in another translation of a Upanishad, I checked the one by Nikhilananda and contrasted it with a different one – by S. Radhakrishnan – and found the latter to be more satisfactory – as to language used and clarity of meaning.

              Being on this, I am sorry I cannot fully understand the meaning of the first sentence above (by Anonymous) – it is not formulated clearly. Nevertheless, as far as the need to be realized first (whatever that means) before being able to understand a text or a sentence, seems, on the face of it, to be a gratuitous affirmation (who is saying what to whom?).

              Secondly, Martin ‘realizes’, i.e., understands through the mind, but not exclusively through the mind, that an individual cannot be realized, that only Atman/Brahman (a convenient name) can be said to be the ‘seat’ of Knowledge, a better word for which being ‘knowingness’, ‘consciousness, or ‘awareness’.

  15. Ramesam
    How you did it?
    Captions for each bird:
    1 Acharya said release!
    2 No he said retract!
    3 Owl said drop
    4 We are not really hanging but free
    5 Shouldn’t we know what we are hanging on to?
    6 It is a jute rope
    7 No it is Nylon

  16. Ramesam,

    As you know, it is difficult to assess what another person ‘experiences’. It is also difficult to equate various words that might or might not mean the same thing to one person or everyone. Not sure if this is possible. Probably not. So, the following is not the gospel. I could me mad, mistaken, and a fool. Being foolish is not the worst thing. Feel free to call me names like Martin does.

    For me, the word awareness has to constitute both subject and object. Someone or thing is aware. It is a function of the human being. We all have it and it is functioning right now. For me, all awareness functions within the context of self and consciousness, self and consciousness being virtually the same thing. I am talking about what constitutes self, not about self’s true nature. Self’s true nature has to be devoid of self completely and therefore out of the realm of all consciousness. Thus, it is also devoid of awareness as this is a function of our human nature, not our true nature. Normal death erases all experience and awareness but not our true nature.

    Our human efforts can only concern itself with our human nature and that lasts maybe 70-90 years. To know thyself is a human endeavor that involves using observation. How else can we understand anything? Mind is involved to be sure. Everything we know is reflected in the mind. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with our true nature. Our true nature is not a reflection of our human life. No human faculty can know its true nature, only the human nature can be known. The only way we can ‘know’ our true nature is through the ending of this separate self that we call ‘me’, ‘I’, etc. And, it is not possible for our human nature to bring an end to itself. From what I have read of the sages, conversations I have had with sages (of course, the ones I think are sages!), it happens in a blink of an eye. You are simply swept away. It is a revelation, not an attainment. It is not a result. There are no levels of attainment, only levels of self. No true self. The body may remain, but no person inhabits it. True nature and human nature are not compatible. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes. To know the self is to forget the self. But forgetting the self is not erasing it from memory. It’s erased from your whole being.

    As others have said our own existence is common to us all. By observing this sense of existence, me, self, being it, breathing it, living it, you by-pass all the mental analysis and duality that most are involved with. The sense of problem is relieved and a kind of centeredness that focuses this observation can be felt and deepened. This centeredness is a gateway that our true nature reveals itself through and brings an end to all forms of self.

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