Q. 362 – Knowledge and Belief

Q: What does it take to become God-realized? Is it simply to accept that I am brahman,or to really believe I am brahman, or to really, really believe I am brahman, etc? I understand that to have knowledge of something does not automatically transform me. I believe that in order to really know something one has to assimilate and implement the teaching. I know I am already That, but then, how can I ensure the attainment of mokSha in order to stop the illusion of saMsAra

A (Dennis): Knowledge, according to Western philosophy (I think) occurs when you believe something and that belief is both justified (by experience and reason) and true. In order to become Self-realized (I don’t know what you mean by ‘God-realized), you have to subject the ideas of Advaita to doubt and questioning and repetition and consideration etc until such time as your beliefs become knowledge.

I had an experience about 25 years ago which provided me with a powerful illustration of how different knowledge is from belief.  You will have to bear with me as it takes a little while (and two diagrams!) to explain.

101_1 I used to attend philosophy lectures at a school called SES, which holds its talks in rented buildings scattered about the country. At this time, they were held in a house on a circular avenue as in the first image on the left. I always approached along the road at the top, turned left into the avenue and then clockwise to the school. On leaving, I always returned the same way – anti-clockwise, then right and right.

Then, one night, for some reason, I carried on in the same, clockwise direction and then turned left, and then right at the main road as usual. Except that I suddenly hit some traffic lights that had not been there before and I realized that I was somewhere completely different! I quickly recognized where I was and took corrective action but I was completely mystified as to how I had got there.

I puzzled over this for some time, wondering if I had had some sort of mental blackout or been so involved in thinking about what we had been talking about that I hadn’t been paying attention and went the wrong way for some reason.

101_2And then, at some point, the explanation came to me and I knew beyond any doubt what must have happened, even though I had not looked at a map or spoken with anyone about it. The actual layout of the avenue had to be as shown in the second diagram. And so it was of course. But the point is that, when the answer came to me, it came as certainty, not as some working hypothesis or plausible explanation. (Apologies for poor quality of diagrams – I did them on my tablet using software I haven’t used before.)

So this is the certainty for which you are looking. It comes of itself when your mind is ready. You simply know that there is no other answer, even though you cannot look at a map to check your conclusion. If you have the belief already, you have presumably had sufficient shravaNa. You now need to give yourself more manana and nididhyAsana.

Vedas – A body of knowledge or belief?

Vedas are primary/independent pramāṇa (means of knowledge) as regards the truth of oneself, for, all other means of knowledge are about the object, and not the subject. Holding it as such with an open-mind, pending discovery/assimilation of its revelation, is called śraddhā, loosely translated as belief.

A relevant xtract from Swami Paramarthananda lectures…

“We continue to accept the validity of the eyes inspite of occasional optical illusions. Similarly we have to accept the validity of the Veda, in-spite of certain seeming aberrations in certain portions of the Veda. If we reject the eyes because of occasional optical illusions, we are the losers. Similarly, if we reject the Veda because of certain seeming aberrations, we are the losers”.

Topic of the Month – Belief

The topic for Aug 2014 is belief.

People believe all sorts of things. Over time, these may prove to be true but all too frequently are found to be false. Are we ever ‘justified’ in believing? There is clearly some overlap with the Advaitin’s concept of shraddhA, faith, here!

Here is a quote I used in ‘Book of One’: A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. Robert Bolton

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Pramāṇam – 2

A quick recap of keys points from the previous article.

1. pramāṇam the word means, “Means of Knowledge”; it should be anadhigata – non-contradictible, abhādita – non-negatable and hitārtha bodhakam – says what is good for the Humans.

veda2. pramāṇam is of 2 types – pratyakṣam – direct, obtained by using the 5 senses; anumānādi – indirect, based on the direct but using reason. Both these pramāṇams are nitya parokṣa, and operate on everything other than the subject.

3. Knowledge is vastutantram – as the Object, so the Knowledge; and Knowledge will take place even if there is no intention on the part of the Knower since there is no will involved.

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Śraddhā – being open minded

सदेव सौम्येदमग्र आसीदेकमेवाद्वितीयं ब्रह्म – तत् सत्यं – स आत्मा – तत्वमसि श्वेतकेतोः।

sadeva saumyedamagre āsītdekamevādvitīyaṁ brahma – tat satyaṁ sa ātmā – tatvamasi śvetaketoḥ

This, is an extract from chāndogya upaniṣad. It declares, in effect, that you are the cause of the universe; you and iśvara are one and the same. Before we analyze, have a doubt-free understanding and assimilate this teaching, it is worthwhile observing that it is only the Advaita tradition that makes such a monumental empowering declaration.

Supposing this (the teaching) was true, we would have gained everything that is to be gained in this life and hereafter; and supposing if this wasn’t true, what are our choices?  Every other religion, philosophy or cult propounds a theory that appeals to your sense of belief, separates you from God, postpones the knowledge about the truth until after your death, and enslaves you for exploitation. Not a very attractive proposition, is it? So why don’t we have śraddha (meaning, being open minded, and not faith or belief as is commonly mistakenly translated), and give the possibility of the teaching being true a chance, and allow it to operate without prejudice. Please, for God’s sake, and your own. Continue reading