#1 – A journey into the Truth that you Are what you seek!(11 mins)

OM!

When life takes us from Seeking to Searching!

Life is a constant seeking for happiness and contentment by all (no exceptionso) in the following fields:

  • Securities (arthA)- wealth, property, better paying jobs, etc.
  • Pleasures (kAmA)- luxury car, mansion, exotic vacations, expanded friend circle, etc.
  • Religion (dharmA)- accumulating brownie points through worship, good deeds, etc. to take us to a Heaven after death

In the quest for preferably uninterrupted happiness through all transactions, all the time, everywhere and through everyone and everything we come in contact with, the early part of life frantically engages us in secular actions one after another mainly in the fields of pleasures and securities. As age and maturity catch up, some discerning peope start failing to see consistent happiness in material objects and relationships and slowly turn towards God and devotion, still seeking happiness there though! This shift now drives them to indulge in more sacred actions than secular like social service, pilgrimages, fasts and other austerities. Many don’t feel complete even after having sought Religion. They might have everything in life and yet continues an unexplained, nagging itch in the heart which wants something more. That itch may turn to questions– “Why do I seek relationships to make me feel loved, complete and happy?” “Why do I need the world(which includes situations, behaviour of people, etc.) to be a particular way for my happiness?” “Is this ever-changing physical body the real “I”?” “Why am I not comfortable with the idea of death and losing people I love?” “What is God?” “Is my purpose here just to eat, sleep and procreate or is there a greater meaning to all this?”

This seeking process doesn’t follow a specific linear order of progression for all but is an average blueprint for man’s general behavioural progress!

Continue reading

Beginner Series – Blogs on advaita vedAntA!

OM!

Namaste🙏 and welcome! I am Priya, a humble seeker and privileged student of advaita vedAntA under the  tutelage of Swami Paramarthananda. Having benefitted greatly from a changed life perpective that the beautiful teachings of vedAntA have granted me, I wish to share the liberating knowledge with others who may be interested.

I propose to take you on a journey, one that is fun, full of exciting twists and turns with many new things to learn and discover, through a series of blogs. Every other trip we’ve been on so far has left us with beautiful memories. This is one journey that will change inside out the very One making the memories! Be ready to be introduced to a new, upgraded version of yourself at the end of this journey! Ready yourself for the biggest change of your life!

This journey will be in the form of blogs written in simple language incorporating everyday examples. The highest, most profound and subtlest teachings of the self and God as expounded by the vedic vision of advaita vedAntA will be unfolded here. The word “unfolding” is of significance here! Many of us spiritual seekers in the initial phase of enthusiastic spiritual seeking read and listen to matters pertaining to spirituality in a very random fashion from literally all over the place. While this is certainly not bad, such randomness is not very fruitful and productive in terms of the results it yields. Afterall, the very idea we pursue spirituality is to effectuate change in the way we live and react rather than it simply remaining as an intellectual collection of new jargon in our already crowded, busy minds. Just as a folded, ironed shirt has to be carefully unfolded in order for it to be usuable, spiritual teachings, if they have to be of good use to us mentally and emotionally, necessarily HAVE to be unfolded and received in a very systematic manner and that is the aim of these blogs.

Whom are these blogs for?

The world is in dire need of love, peace, satisfaction, compassion, contentment, kindness, unity, happiness. Today we are living life focussed on the most superficial differences which results in dividing us more and more. As long as we continue to stay divided at the level of race, colour, Religion, language, etc. any chances for happiness, untity and peace will only be a far cry. Spiritual study is the means of going past the differences even while living in them, by effectuating shift in the very way we think by teaching us to turn our awareness towards the unifying factor that connects us all. Such study is beyond the scope of Religion which still is at the realm of difference. That means, anyone with an open enough mind ready for change, belonging to any group, culture, country, sect, race or religion is welcome to join the journey.

Why read my blogs?

No, I am no learned teacher but an enthusiastic seeker and student as much as you are. That means I have  the same questions and doubts that you have! By writing these blogs, from my standpoint I stay completely immersed in the teachings which helps my understanding and assimilation better while from your standpoint I will raise the same kind of doubts and questions that might pop up in your mind. There is absolutely no taking away or replacing the process of receiving these profoundly subtle teachings from an Enlightened teacher!

I am blessed with a compassionate preceptor who gives me the teachings and also am fortunate to have plenty of time to devote to spiritual study. Into seemingly simple, short blogs, many many hours of study and contemplation go. I am happy to consolidate my efforts into blogs which might run to be about 12-14 minute reads every 10 days initially and then every 15 days as things start getting hotter! That gives a busy person enough ‘catch up time’ to take it in before the next blog is published. You don’t have to scramble and search the internet for more spiritual information, they will come to you in the right sequence as they came to me, at the right time! advaita vedAntA texts are in Sanskrit(what is considered the Mother of all Languages) and I will provide Sanskrit equivalents in red wherever appropriate. In the blog, points that I would normally consider important enough to highlight while studying will appear in green. The title will be followed by an average reading time in brackets to indicate how much time will approximately be needed for the blog.

Join me on a journey like none other and experience for yourself all the wonderful possibilities that lay ahead!

OM! Peace!

Picture credits:pixabay.com

Does Permanence imply Reality? Let’s ask Shankara

We shall be here walking on epistemological ground. The last post made use of two verses from the Atmabodha to discuss the distinction between action and knowledge, and to decide which of the two is directly conducive to liberation. In any discussion of the various themes of Advaita Vedanta two primal realities constantly come to surface – the reality of Consciousness and the reality of Being. The sum total of an Advaitin’s spiritual and intellectual endeavours involves an understanding and recognition of these realities. What is meant by these is not, of course, this or that instance of conscious awareness or existence, but instead the whole of Consciousness and Being.

Why is that so? Or – why these? Why are they situated at the very foundation of whatever there is? Or – why are they met with in an analytical attempt at plumbing the very depths of experience? A simple answer (one that is not so simple) is that they are permanent, everlasting, undying, immortal. These two (they aren’t really two, and that is the whole point of Advaita) do not have the quality of bubbles Shankara ascribes to the phenomenal world in the Atmabodha. Let’s quote him –

Like bubbles in the water, the worlds rise, exist and dissolve in the supreme Self (verse 8)

Brahman, who is of the very nature of Consciousness and Being, is not of the nature of bubbles. Brahman instead is like the water on which the bubbles take birth and death constantly. Or – of which bubbles are but ephemeral manifestations. Brahman itself does not take birth or death and is timeless and permanent. And it is this that makes Brahman the only reality, while the rest of manifest creation is but contingent upon this reality. Yet, a question that used to plague me often in my wrestling with the basic truths of Vedanta was of the relation between reality and permanence. Why is permanence considered the mark of the real? What ground do we have to suppose that? Why is it not that truth and reality are ephemeral and short-lasting? Heraclitus, as opposed to Parmenides, held the view that permanence was a delusion and that everything in reality is a never-ending flux (a never-ending flux! Paradoxical!). But if Heraclitus is right then there should be no reason whatsoever to consider, say, a dream experience as false. Except for its ephemerality (it’s bubble-ness) there is nothing to suggest that a dream is untrue. In fact, a dream is not untrue at all except if one defines truth as permanence. What is untrue in a dream? What we experience in a dream contradicts, say, the laws of nature we usually experience in the waking state. But that too is an appeal to permanence, is it not? What is law but a repeated (and therefore permanent) behaviour. When we call a dream untrue, we mean to say that it doesn’t behave the same way every time. We say that its behaviour is not permanent, it lasts only eight hours! When faced with the option of choosing what lasts consistently for eight hours and what lasts and has lasted in the rest of one’s life experience, one is sure, like Nachiketa rejecting the wealth offered him by Yama in the Katha Upanishad, to choose the latter. The snake that exists for a moment doesn’t have the same epistemic value as the rope that is permanently available to one’s inspection. Mere flux without an underlying permanence makes the acquisition of knowledge and concern for truth meaningless. However, even if one were to assign equal value, in a phenomenological sense, to dreams and waking states and hallucinations and so on – even that, in a broader sense, is welcome to the Advaitin. All being Brahman, the misperceived world too is Brahman, just as the misperceived snake is nothing different from or other than the rope!

In Science too (and we just referred to natural law) what is thought of as real is what has been constant and permanent in the natural order. If we have inherited, say, a working biological mechanism since the time we parted company with our amphibian ancestors, then this mechanism is considered a truer factor in the description and understanding of the reality of man than, say, some newly acquired social trait which hasn’t proved its mettle through biological time. Thus is it that permanence is accorded not only a greater epistemic value but is itself just another name for truth. Something that is eternal is by definition truer than that which is merely passing. Indeed, not only that but that which is passing and ephemeral is most likely embedded in the eternal just as the bubbles are in the substratum that is water.

The Advaitin’s intellectual task then is more the philosophical study of permanence than even the investigation of Consciousness and Being. For, through analysis, the Advaitin finds that permanence is but another name for Consciousness and Being. And to this analysis I hope to turn in my coming posts.

The ego, the ‘soul’ and metaphysics – 6th and final part

EXPLANATION
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It was made clear at the beginning of this essay that what we mean by the “ego” (the “personality”), it being no more than a delusion, a false image or projection, cannot be a subject, except in a dream -and is itself a “dream”. We described the fight of the “ego” in its efforts at reaffirmation as an “unholy war”. That it is obviously the soul, the person, who is the subject of the delusion, the “dream” ; his/her’s the “holy war”, the suffering and the required effort towards reawakening (is not life itself a dream? –it is so for “fallen man”). The soul’s, the person’s destiny – and this is conditional according to the monotheistic religions – is to finally be “reabsorbed”, united or reintegrated , and thus liberated. Liberated not from itself (its Self!) by itself , not even from life, but from a false image of itself and of life (“the world”) due to ignorance (avidya).

It is thus through ignorance, passion and attachment, that individual man (non-gender term) has “become” an “ego”, a “dreamer”, until, or unless, he wakes up. Existence itself is a ‘becoming’, not ‘being’, according to Plato and all traditional thinking. This subject is otherwise inexhaustible, and here we may remember the saying of Râbi’a quoted at the beginning, as well as the utterances of so many other sages and mystics. Continue reading

Consciousness/Awareness, the brain, and memories

(Q&A published recently in QUORA)

Q. ‘Why wasn’t my consciousness generated by another brain? Why am I linked with this brain?’

I heard that everybody experiences consciousness, but then why am I my consciousness and not another person’s consciousness? It’s hard to explain.

Paul Bush. Yes, it’s hard to explain. Basically it’s because the most important part of consciousness, which is awareness*, is the same for everybody. There is only one awareness, and in fact nothing else. All the other aspects of consciousness, the contents, are projections of awareness as it identifies with small parts of reality such as bodies and minds. Such misidentification creates a perspective. From each perspective the part of reality not identified with is seen as the external world. The observer with a particular perspective and the world observed as a consequence of that perspective are both inferences created at the moment of identification.

So, there is only one awareness that is continually pulled into the illusion of being this or that observer. The ongoing personal identity that we think of as ourselves maintains coherence through the construction of the concepts of time and space; memory and an apparent (though not total) physical separation from the rest of reality. Awareness has no personal identity, it is exactly the same for you and everyone else, because it is singular awareness that creates each experience depending on the perspective of the entity that it is identifying with.

*(AM Awareness and Consciousness are generally taken as equivalent in Advaita Vedanta – no distinction being made) Continue reading

Vedanta – New Series

venugopal_vedantaAdvaita Vision is pleased to announce the commencement (very soon) of the serialization of this brilliant book on Vedanta by Sri D. Venugopal, a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda, Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Siddhabodhananda and Swamini Pramananda. The book is designed to be the ‘next level up’ from an Introduction but does not assume any prior knowledge. We published an extract from this book – ‘Vedanta: the solution to our fundamental problem’ – in April 2013 but, now, Sri Venugopal has kindly given his permission for the entire book to be serialized so that all may benefit. The book is remarkable for the clarity of its expression and the copious cross-references to scriptures.