Mistakes and Misconceptions In Vedantic Investigation – 2/2

Part – I

Historically, Buddhism and Zen came to the West prior to the Advaita philosophy. Their teachings made a deep impact on the Western mind. Particularly, the Mountain and River Sutra and the Return of the Bull to the Market are well-remembered today even by those who moved on to the Advaita philosophy. The Mountain and River Sutra runs something as follows:

“When I first began to practice, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers. As I trained, mountains were not mountains; rivers were not rivers. Now that I am established in the way, mountains are once more mountains and rivers are once more rivers.”

However, when viewed from an Advaita philosophy angle, the last line above gets modified roughly as: ‘Now that I am established in the Advaita way, I find that mountains are the Self, rivers are Self, and there is Self Alone and no second (thing).’ In the second story too, the fulfilled seeker would usually end up with no interest in the market or conducting transactions within it, because his/her sense of doership – experiencership (kartrutva – bhoktrutva) doesn’t continue after Self-realization is fully achieved.

But the Western Advaita teachers like to hold that “nothing needs to change” on the attainment of Self-realization and that the multifaceted world and their interactions within it will continue. In order to buttress their argument, they tell us that Ramana quotes Shankara to say that, “brahman is the universe” and being already brahman, the world cannot get affected. From their own personal code of conduct and behavior (see The Pre-requisites, we referred to in Part – 1), an observer gets the impression that they would, as though, like to keep their one leg entrenched in the dualistic world and its allurements.

[Note: True, nothing needs to change ‘out there.’ But a change does happen in one’s “vision” after Self-realization, as we will see towards the end of this article.] 

The Ramana quote claiming brahman is the world does sound a bit strange; It’s like saying all Gold is ring. But did not Shankara Continue reading

Mistakes and Misconceptions In Vedantic Investigation – 1/2

Shankara, the 7th-8th CE AcArya and unquestionably the biggest exponent of Advaita, maintains that:

नोत्पद्यते विना ज्ञानं विचारेणान्यसाधनैः 

यथा पदार्थभानं हि प्रकाशेन विना क्वचित्      —  11, aparokShAnubhUti.

Meaning: Knowledge of the Self is not brought about by any other means than inquiry, just as an object is nowhere perceived without the help of illumination.

Thus, “inquiry” or “investigation” is the unique and incomparable tool available for a committed seeker in search of Truth in the Advaita philosophy. The prominent trio of Advaita teachers of the 20th century popularized this method of approach called ‘Self-inquiry’ through what they often referred to as the Direct path. With its simplicity of expression and the promise of directness of access to the Self, the Direct path attracted many Westerners into its fold, resulting in a mushrooming of teachers, more condensed processes like Neo-Advaita, and even premature declarations of attainment of the Self.

Alas, people have totally forgotten what Shankara said in a verse just ahead of the one quoted at the beginning of this article. He said: Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 5:

Part – 4

The Non-dual message of the Advaita doctrine is so deceptively simple that one feels tempted to say “I got It,” though in reality s/he has not. Fortunately for us, various scriptures and authorities like Shankara offer a number of means to test ourselves on our progress on the Knowledge Path so that we do not foreclose our sAdhana (practice) too soon. All through this Series of posts, we have been trying to provide many hints and markers that may help a committed seeker in protecting himself/herself from deluding prematurely that s/he is “Self-realized or Enlightened.” It has been our endeavor to present reliable self-appraisal mechanisms based on authentic sources and we shall continue below with a few more easily doable means of verifying the state of our “Realization.”

Shankara does not mince his words when he says at both 1.4.7 and again at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka:

अविद्याशोकमोहभयादिदोषनिवृत्तेः प्रत्यक्षत्वादिति चोक्तः |  — Shankara at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka. Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 4:

Part – 1               Part – 2              Part – 3 

We have from Bhagavad-Gita:

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना ॥            —  4.24, Bhagavad-Gita.

Meaning:  brahman is the offering, brahman the oblation; by brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of brahman; brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees brahman in action.

Some people who delude themselves to be Self-realized cite the above verse and argue that they see each and every object to be brahman. It is blatantly an inadmissible argument because it would imply that the indivisible brahman has divided Itself into multiple bits and pieces.

The shruti is very categorical when it tells us:

एकधैवानुद्रष्टव्यमेतदप्रमयं ध्रुवम्    —   4.4.20, brihadAraNyaka:

Meaning:  It should be realized in one form only, (for) It is unknowable and eternal.

Shankara comments at the above mantra:  “Since It is such, It should be realized in one form only, viz. as homogeneous Pure Intelligence, without any break in it, like the space; for It, this brahman, is unknowable, owing to the unity of everything (in brahman).” Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 3:

Part – 2

We come across very often in the Western Advaita circles, teachers and well-read writers who do not hesitate to say “I am realized.” Such a  deluded belief in claiming Self-realization appears to be based principally on two fallacies. One is that when they say that “I know I am aware,” they falsely assume that they are in touch with the Absolute Awareness. The second is that they think that they see a world of multiple objects even after Self-realization, because the  objects apparent to them are preexistent to their perception, all the objects being already ‘brahman‘ — as if the indivisible brahman has made it especially easy for them to perceive Itself (brahman).

As Swami Sarvapriyananda lucidly explains in this Video, about 30 to 32 min into his talk, the awareness one knows when one says “I am aware” is the fallacious or shadow consciousness and not the Absolute Consciousness. An easy verification can also be made by oneself to ascertain if it is the chidabhAsa (reflected Consciousness) or the Absolute brahman through a simple test as suggested by the Swami Ji in that talk. Thus the awareness that they assume to be in touch is not brahman, but the reflected Consciousness only. Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 2:

Part – 1

Dennis raised a question on how one can conclude that the word “this” in the 3.14.1, chAndogya would mean “the ‘Universal’ substratum of the world and not the nAma-rUpa-vyAvahAra which are the perceivables.” His contention is that “this” refers to the percept itself.

If what is directly available for the five sensory organs + mind is itself brahman, neither the Upanishads nor the Advaitic teachers right from Gaudapada, Shankara and so on need to have taken any trouble at all  to point out to the seeker what brahman is. On the other hand, all the teachers go to considerable pains to explain that what is available to perception “veils” the Reality, the Substratum and that what is available for perception is a superimposed “falsity” out of our ignorance.

Shankara, in fact, is so tired of repeatedly pointing this fact in all his bhAShya-s that at 2.1.22, BSB, he writes out of exasperation that “We Continue reading

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 1:

Many people with a nodding acquaintance of Advaita often forget that the ‘ego’ is not totally non-existent. It is not ‘tuccha’ like ‘the hare’s horn’ or ‘the son of a barren woman.’ It has a relative existence. Like the world. Neither of these two have ‘Absolute Reality.’ In fact, the ego and the world are coeval – the ego with a sense of ‘agency’ and a claim of being the sentient ‘knower-doer’ and the world being the insentient ‘known’ and ‘the field for action.’ Because of their mutual dependency, there cannot be an ‘apparent’ world unless there is a seer to whom it has ‘to appear.’ Their relationship is something like that of the tree and the seed. Therefore, their real ‘source’ has to be something different from either of them – much like the earth without which neither there can be a seed nor a tree.

The ‘source’ for both the ego and the world, Advaita says, is the eternal immutable impartite brahman. Thus, in the Advaitic lingo, brahman is said to be the kAraNa for both the mutable ego and the world. Though the word kAraNa in common parlance means ‘cause,’ it does not stand to mean in that usual sense of a process relation, but it has to be taken to connote to be the ‘source for origination.’ Continue reading

The Ignorance that Isn’t – 8/8

Part – 7/8

15.  jIva and jagat are Notional (Contd):

When Arjuna laments at the prospect of killing his loved ones in the war, Krishna tells him, “It was not that I was not existing before nor will I stop existing in the future.” That means there is no beginning or end, nor do the birth and death exist. Life is merely a transitional form that arises in between the unreal appearance of birth and death. Since birth and death are unreal, we (as the Self) are already liberated.

त्वेवाहं जातु नासं त्वं नेमे जनाधिपा |
चैव भविष्याम: सर्वे वयमत: परम् ||              —  2:12, Bhagavad-Gita.

[Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.]

In the very next verse, Krishna, however, says: Continue reading

The Ignorance that Isn’t – 7/8

Part – 6/8  

13.  The Logical Fallacy of Infinite Regress:

While explicating further on the question of “Whose is avidyA  (Ignorance)?” Shankara points out that the contention “I am ignorant” is a logical fallacy which would lead one to an infinite regress.

Shankara says:

ज्ञातुः अविद्यायाश्च सम्बन्धस्य यः ग्रहीता, ज्ञानं अन्यत् तद्विषयं सम्भवति ; अनवस्थाप्राप्तेः   ज्ञातुः अविद्यायाश्च सम्बन्धस्य यः ग्रहीता, ज्ञानं अन्यत् तद्विषयं सम्भवति ; अनवस्थाप्राप्तेः  यदि ज्ञात्रापि ज्ञेयसम्बन्धो ज्ञायते, अन्यः ज्ञाता कल्प्यः स्यात् , तस्यापि अन्यः, तस्यापि अन्यः इति अनवस्था अपरिहार्या  यदि पुनः अविद्या ज्ञेया, अन्यद्वा ज्ञेयं ज्ञेयमेव  तथा ज्ञातापि ज्ञातैव, ज्ञेयं भवति  यदा एवम् , अविद्यादुःखित्वाद्यैः ज्ञातुः क्षेत्रज्ञस्य किञ्चित् दुष्यति

“How can you perceive the relation between the Self and avidyA? It is not indeed possible for you to perceive your Self as related to avidyA, at the same moment (that your Self cognizes avidyA); for, the cognizer (Self) acts at the moment as the percipient of avidyA. (The Self cannot be both the perceiver and the perceived at the same time). Continue reading

The Ignorance that Isn’t – 6/8

Part – 5/8 

What we have are clearly two entities. They are the kShetra, the field comprising all that which is the knowable, and the kShetrjna, who is the Knower. If ignorance and misery were to be the inherent properties of the Self, it amounts to say that Self perceives Itself because the Self is able to know them (the misery and nescience). That obviously is an absurd position, “since one and the same thing cannot be both the agent and the object of an action.” Whatever is perceived, as for example form and color, cannot be a property of the perceiver.

Likewise, it is the Self that perceives joys and sorrows. They cannot perceive themselves. They are objects to the Self; they are not the Self.  For the Self to perceive these, they must be different from the Self. Only then can they be experienced. If the object is totally identified with the Self (me), it cannot be perceived anymore. It itself becomes the Self.

Hence it is incorrect to say that “nescience and misery and the like are the attributes and specific properties of kShhetrajna.” Continue reading