Vedanta the Solution – Part 27


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 27 begins the enquiry into the nature of the jIva. It looks at the various explanations for how Consciousness manifests in the body-mind and the special role of the buddhi.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 26


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 26 examines the nature of AtmA, utilising the ‘descriptions’ from the Brihadaranyaka, Kena and Mandukya Upanishads. How can we ‘know’ the Self, when it is not an object?

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

‘ego’, self, and metaphysics – Part lV

In the Buddhist perspective, the ego or self as ordinarily considered in Western traditions (i.e., as soul or person), is a non-self, actually a non-entity (anatta). Hence the suffering, which stems from an experience -ultimately illusory- of separation and vulnerability.

Here we have to consider two things. First, according to Mahayana Buddhism, Adi-Buddha, equivalent to Dharmakaya – the highest metaphysical, or divine, level – represents that unique Being or Divine ‘State’, pervading all manifestation as Buddha-nature; and second, the notion of the Self (Atman, derived from the Hindu Vedanta) is not only compatible with that view, but also with that of the Spirit in Christianity and in Islam.

As to the soul (metaphysics and theology), though intrinsically perfect or whole in itself (one could add: in ‘primordial man’ –the purusha or Hiranyagarbha of Hinduism)- it experiences imperfection, self-limitation, anxiety and doubt in its state of (aparent) separation -the ‘fallen state’. Being, not just potentially, a ‘focal point of the Universe’, yet it becomes, through ignorance and self-will, the subject of illusions, attachments, and passions which lead to that predicament. Its condition is thus ambivalent; it can orient itself upwards (or towards the centre) – to ‘holiness’ and integration – or downwards, pulled by its ‘lower nature’ (nafs in its lower stages, according to Sufism). The end result will be either self-denial, or self-assertion; self-giving, or ego-centeredness. Inevitably, this latter tendency, based on ignorance, can only lead to an unwanted result: dispersal, disintegration, and suffering. Alas!, on the whole, if not in principle, psychiatry is not interested in this distinction or dichotomy; but let not anything else be said about this at this point.

From the viewpoint of advaita vedanta, all of what is described in this paragraph – and what follows – pertains to the empirical, relative (ontological and epistemological) level: mithya (or vyavahara), in other words. Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 23

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 23 begins the chapter on ‘Analysis of the subject in its three states of experience’. This first part looks at the three aspects of the body-mind-sense complex – the causal, subtle and gross bodies.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Swami Dayananda

dayanandaIn case anyone has not yet heard, Swami Dayananda passed away yesterday, the 23rd September, at 22.18 IST in Rishikesh. Unquestionably the greatest teacher of Advaita in our lifetimes, he must certainly rank as one of the most important ever. Fortunately the legacy of his own writings and transcriptions, and that of the institutions he founded and the teachers he taught, will live on to the benefit of future seekers.

As a topical example of his teaching, I would like to reproduce the following pieces on the subject of manonAsha. These are extracted from the excellent book already recommended in these pages: ‘Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati – his uniqueness in the vedanta sampradaya’ by D. Venugopal.

manonaSha or Thought-free-mind Confusion

There is also a widespread contention among the adherents of aShTANga-yoga that the truth of the self is covered by vRRittis (thought-forms) and it has to be uncovered by stoppage of thoughts (citta-vRRitti-nirodha). Pujya Swamiji clarifies that thought is not the problem. He says:

“The confusion comes from the statement that AtmA is undivided (nirvikalpa). The vision of the ShAstra is that while the knower, known, and knowledge are not separate from AtmA, AtmA is independent of all of them. In MANDukya UpaniShad and in the kArikA, the dreamer is cited as proof that there is no real division (vikalpa) such as dreamer, dream and dreamt, even though during the dream, the division was taken to be real. Continue reading

Atma vichAra

The Self cannot be ‘known’ in any objective sense because it is the ultimate subject – there is no other subject that could know it. This is why science can never tell us anything about the Self. Science works by collecting data and analyzing it; formulating theories and then using them to predict what will happen when data are gathered in a different situation. This can never be applied to Self/brahman, because brahman has no data.

Strictly speaking, vichAra refers to investigation into ‘things’ so that Atma vichAra is effectively a contradiction in terms; the Self is not a thing. Spiritual investigation has to be done rather differently. The correct term is shAstra mImAMsA and it is really scriptural ‘investigation’ that we must conduct in order to find out about the Self. Monier-Williams translates mImAMsA as “profound thought or reflection or consideration; investigation, examination, discussion”. The philosophical branch that studies the Upanishads etc at the end of the Vedas (Vedanta) is called uttara mImAMsA. (uttara means “later, following, subsequent, concluding” but also “superior, chief, excellent, dominant”.)

We ‘discover’ the Self by removing ignorance. If someone holds up a screen in front of our face and then brings an object to show us, but keeps it behind the screen, we can say nothing at all about the object. However, as soon as the screen is taken away, the object is revealed to our senses and the perception takes place automatically. Similarly, knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance but as soon as that ignorance is removed, the Self is immediately self-evident; we do not have to do anything to ‘investigate’ it.

Scripture functions like a mirror. When we look into a mirror, we do not literally see our face and body, we only see an image of it. Yet this enables us directly to perform whatever actions are required on the body itself – combing the hair, shaving and so on. We do not shave the image but the actual hair on the face. Similarly, the scriptures do not directly represent the Self but the information therein, when explained by a qualified teacher, directly enables the ignorance in our mind to be removed, revealing the Self-knowledge which is as though hidden beneath.

Actions will never bring about Self-knowledge, since action is not opposed to ignorance. Nor will practices such as meditation or prayer. As Swami Paramarthananda puts it, meditation will only bring about quiet ignorance.

As Shankara puts it (if he was the author of vivekachUDAmaNi v.13): “It is through reflection over the words of a truly benevolent soul that one comes to a knowledge of reality, and not through bathing at sacred places, charity or hundreds of breathing practices”. [1] I.e. it is through shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana and not through asking ‘Who am I?’ that one gains Self-knowledge.

[1] The Crest Jewel of Wisdom; viveka-chUDAmaNi, commentary by Hari Prasad Shastri, Shanti Sadan, 1997. ISBN 0-85421-047-0.

Vision Of Truth (sad darshanam) – Part 18





Kva bhAti dikkAla kathA vinAsmAn

dikkAla lIleha vapurvayam chet

na kvApi bhAmaH na kadApi bhamaH

vayam tu sarvatra sadA cha bhAmaH —18


asmAn vinA dikkAla kathA Kva bhAti = without us where does the saga of space-time shine?edikkAla lIleha vapuH vayam chet = when we identify with the body, the play of space-time begins; na kvApi bhAmaH na kadApi bhamaH = we do not exist in a place; we do not exist at a time; vayam tu sarvatra sadA cha bhAmaH = we exist everywhere at all times.


Where does the saga of space-time shine without us? When we identify with the body, the play of space-time begins. We do not exist in a place, we do not exist at a time. We exist everywhere at all times.

Atma is not localized at a place or time. Space and time are appearances in the self. Yet, due to ignorance we find ourselves localized in the space time framework. On gaining knowledge we know that it is only the body which is limited by space and time. The self is limitless spatially and temporally. Continue reading

Vision Of Truth (sad darshanam) – Part 17



भूतम् भविष्यच्च भवत् स्वकाले

तद्वर्तमानस्य विहाय तत्त्वम् ।

हास्या न किम् स्यात् गत भावि चर्चा

विनैक सन्ख्याम् गणनेव लोके ॥—१७


bhUtam bhaviShyachcha bhavat svakAle

tadvartamAnasya vihAya tattvam

hAsyA na kim syAt gata bhAvi charchA

vinaika sankhyAm gaNaneva loke—17


bhUtam bhaviShyachcha = the past and the future; bhavat svakAle = are in their own time,

present tadvartamAnasya vihAya tattvam = giving up the truth of that present; hAsyA na kim

syAt gata bhAvi charchA = will the discussion on past and future not be laughable; vinaika

sankhyAm gaNaneva loke = like counting in the world without the number one.


The past and the future are in their own time, present. Giving up the truth of that present , will not the discussion on past and future be laughable, like counting without the number one in the world?


What is time? It is a subjective phenomena. The sense organs are equipped to perceive objects. The ‘is-ness’ of the object is understood and this is not limited by time since it is eternal.When an object is perceived, the is-ness is known. Is indicates the present tense.  It is never the past nor ever the future. ‘Now’ is the word we use to indicate the present. The essence of ‘now’ is the self alone. How? Let us look into it. Continue reading