Dissolving The Apparent World

 On the insistent questioning of the highly determined Naciketas, Lord Yama had no alternative but to reveal the secret code to ending the transient mortal world and realizing the “immortality” that one actually and already is.  It is not some thing new that one acquires. It is prAptasya prAptiH (प्राप्तस्य प्राप्ति:). Or, as kaTha says at 2.5.1, विमुक्तश्च विमुच्यते (i.e. becoming freed, one becomes emancipated. In other words, he does not take up a body again).

Shankara explains it in his own inimitable way unpacking the involved intricacies in simple words. He writes in his commentary at 1.3.14, kaTha in the following way:

एवं पुरुषे आत्मनि सर्वं प्रविलाप्य नामरूपकर्मत्रयं यन्मिथ्याज्ञानविजृम्भितं क्रियाकारकफललक्षणं स्वात्मयाथात्म्यज्ञानेन मरीच्युदकरज्जुसर्पगगनमलानीव मरीचिरज्जुगगनस्वरूपदर्शनेनैव स्वस्थः प्रशान्तः कृतकृत्यो भवति यतः , अतस्तद्दर्शनार्थमनाद्यविद्याप्रसुप्ताः उत्तिष्ठत हे जन्तवः |    — Shankara at 1.3.14, kaTha Upanishad. Continue reading

Q.491 Individuality and the world

Q: Does individuality survive enlightenment? In other words, putting aside any genetic differences, age, etc., would 50 realized people act the same in the same environment? Would they have the same preference for food, clothes, etc?

If not, why not? It seems that If the ego is completely destroyed, and a soul does not exist, and a person is in a permanent state of enlightenment, there wouldn’t be any difference between any of them. (My definition of an ego includes all past experiences.)

In addition, people often say something like, “I always wanted to do that,” or “Deep inside I always knew I would be a doctor or a scientist,” etc. What is that? Where does this “knowing” come from? Is it just an ego playing its games? 

Thank you, I appreciate your help. Your books are really great. I’ve enjoyed reading them.

A: Good questions! But, before I answer them, you have to always bear in mind that questions like these refer to the appearance, not the reality; vyavahAra, not paramArtha. In reality, no one has ever been born; there is no ‘creation’; there is only Brahman. (I’m assuming from what you say that you have read ‘A-U-M’, in which case you will be happy with this!) So the answers are academic, in line with traditional Advaita, but are all mithyA in reality.  Continue reading

chAndogya, 3.14.1:

We have had a long discussion on the mantra at 3.14.1 of the chAndogya Upanishad in Oct 2020. We examined its significance from both epistemological and ontological angles. We had also noted that the full thrust of the mantra can be appreciated only if the entire section, and the mantra at 3.14.4 and particularly Shankara’s commentary there on are also taken into account. Otherwise, there is a danger that one may try to read into the mantra a meaning which is not its purpose at all!

Somehow all of us missed a very highly relevant and meaningful point that Shankara makes about this mantra at 1.3.1, BSB . It has a clear bearing on our discussions and settles the issue, IMHO, without any scope for even an iota of doubt. I like to bring it to the attention of all the interested members. Continue reading

The Mind and its Death

(K3.31 – K.32) Everything that we perceive, we perceive through the senses; everything that we ‘know’, we know through the mind. Consciousness functions through the mind – the concept known as chidAbhAsa, explained in Appendix 3. When the mind is inactive – for example, in deep sleep or under anesthetic – we are conscious of nothing. It is the mind that effectively imposes duality on the non-dual. We see the forms and, by naming them, it is as if we create separate things where there is really only brahman. Once this apparent duality is imposed, all of the negative emotions of desire, fear, attachment, anger and the rest follow. It is the mistaking of the really non-dual as dual that brings into existence all of our problems, which Advaita summarizes as saMsAra.

Having recognized that it is the mind that is the effective source of our problems, it is only natural to conclude that, by somehow ‘getting rid of’ the mind, we will solve those problems. This is the concept called manonAsha, which found favor with Ramana Maharshi in particular, who is claimed to have stated that this should be the aim of the seeker. (manas refers to mind in general; nAsha means loss, destruction, annihilation, death.) Once we have ‘destroyed the mind’, it is said, there will be no more duality.

Continue reading

Post-Enlightenment Perception

Swami Krishnananda Saraswati of The Divine Life left his mortal coil on this day in 2001. He tells us in his explication of the chAndogya Upanishad that “With the present state of (our) mind it is not possible to understand what the perception of a Jivanmukta could be. We can only have comparisons, illustrations and analogies. But what actually it is, it is not possible for us to understand.”

Nevertheless, for a seeker on the Knowledge path, the topic whether the visible world (which does not exist in reality even now) will continue to appear after Self-realization or not, whether it would disappear like the proverbial snake on the rope or will continue to show up like the ghostly water in a mirage is ever evocative. That is, at least, until the final tipping point happens. The interest in this topic  cannot be said to be driven by mere idle academic curiosity. There is a genuine internal “urge” in every seeker to measure up oneself in assessing whether one’s own understanding of the Advaitic doctrine has remained at an intellectual level or has percolated down viscerally. Perception of a world can be a very easily testable “Marker” toward such an end. Continue reading

Q.490 Consciousness and the Brain

Q: My question is one I can’t seem to clarify through any book, teacher or teaching:

How do we know that the brain isn’t responsible for consciousness? While we can observe mind with all of it’s contents as objects and then say we cannot be that which we observe, how can we be sure that there is not just some part of the brain which does the observing that is giving us this ability to watch thought? How does Vedanta address this? How can we know that the brain isn’t simply the one observing all phenomena?

Side note: I lost consciousness once due to a fall and blacked out, and all I can say is that there was complete absence of being and no one there to be aware of the non-beingness. No observer nor observed. Beyond no-thing. Absolutely no experience beyond the concept of the word. Continue reading

From the Grossest to the Subtlest – 2/2

Part – 1

Narada climbs up the staircase from Name up to Spirit almost hopping and jumping spurred by his own enthusiasm and curiosity.   He asks his venerable teacher at each step after meditating, “What’s next?”  He, however, falls absolutely silent after meditation at the level of Spirit, the 15th itself. He has another flight of steps to take to reach the Ultimate, the Absolute!

Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society tells us that the 7th chapter of the Upanishad expounds the magnificent doctrine of the bhuma, the Absolute, the plenum of Being, the fullness of Reality. But also cautions us that “As we go further and further in this chapter, we will find it is more and more difficult to understand the intention of the Upanishad. The instructions are very cryptic in their language. Even the Sanskrit language that is used is very archaic, giving way to various types of interpretations.” Though the words may look familiar, their meaning is significantly different and connote a much deeper sense. Continue reading

From the Grossest to the Subtlest – 1/2

Shankara opens his commentary on the 6th chapter of chAndogya with a very brief intro. bringing out the context of Svetaketu’s story and its relationship (sambandha) to the rest of the Upanishad. He says that the 6th chapter explains two important points, which are:

  1. “How this whole universe proceeds from, subsists in and becomes absorbed (or merged) into brahman because the seeker has been previously ASKED TO MEDITATE, free from all love and hate and being self-controlled, upon that universal brahman to be the source, sustainer and dissolver at 3.14.1 of the Upanishad”; and
  2. “How when the Knower of the Truth has eaten, the whole universe becomes satiated.”

Appropriately enough, after the completion of the 16 sections, at the end of the chapter, he makes the following concluding remarks:

Continue reading

Gaudapada and World Appearance

(Extract from the book)

What exactly happens when a person is enlightened or ‘gains mokSha’?  A popular, although somewhat incomprehensible, belief is that the world somehow ‘disappears’; that, for the j~nAnI, there simply is no longer any duality. Quite how the j~nAnI (apparently) continues to eat, drink and converse is not adequately explained by those who hold such a view. But Gaudapada approaches it from a different and even more dramatic angle.

Prior to my enlightenment, I make the mistake of identifying myself with the body-mind, believing myself to be a separate entity. This is the result of my Self-ignorance – not realizing that I am the unlimited Atman. Gaudapada says that this ignorance is beginningless (anAdi) (K1.16). At the dawn of Self-knowledge, I recognize that I am not the waker, dreamer or deep-sleeper but the non-dual turIya.

As to whether or not the world then disappears, Gaudapada effectively asks: how can it disappear when it didn’t exist to begin with? “If the visible world actually existed, there is no doubt that it might stop (i.e. disappear) (as soon as j~nAna was gained). (But) this (apparent) duality is merely mAyA (and) the absolute truth is non-dual.” (K1.17) Continue reading

Ignorance and the World

After the two long discussions on this fascinating topic, I would like to offer the following as my final word on the subject (hopefully!):

The world is brahman – sarvam khalvidam brahma. So we can say that the cause of the world is brahman (and shruti does say this!). The cause is not ignorance. It is because of ignorance that we see the world as separate objects and people but that is not the same thing. Yes, we superimpose ‘things’ upon the non-dual reality. That is adhyAsa. But that is not the ‘cause’ of the world. Ignorance is absence of knowledge and the world could not arise from an ‘absence’ or nothing. Brahman is the cause and, for the sake of ‘explanation’ we posit that it does so via the power of mAyA. Even so, the world is nothing other than Brahman, since Brahman is both material and efficient cause.

Ignorance is not the cause of the world; it is the reason that we fail to realize that the world is Brahman. When that ignorance is removed, the realization dawns; but since it had nothing to do with the appearance, the world does not disappear when the ignorance goes. If the (appearance of the) world had not been there to begin with there would have been nothing for us to superimpose upon. It was and remains mithyA – dependent upon Brahman for its reality. When we gain Self-knowledge, what goes away is the ignorance, not the world.