‘Not Two’ – a Critical Review

On the face of it, this is a well-written and readable book, ideally suited for a new seeker. E.g. the sections on ‘The Illusory Nature of the Separate Self’ and ‘Knowledge Dispels Ignorance’ are excellent.

Unfortunately, should any reader accept everything that is written at its face value, they will come away with some serious confusions. In what follows, I apologize in advance for some of what may seem to be harsh criticisms, but my own perception of these points is heightened as a result of spending the last year writing my own work on ‘confusions’ of precisely this sort.

The author uses the traditional teaching method of adhyāropa-apavāda but it is not made clear when what is being said is only provisional. Also, there are very few references to the source of what is being presented. (And one of those that is provided doesn’t exist!) There are many places where the author writes ‘as Shankara said’ but scarcely a single pointer to where he said it. There are numerous places where I, as an informed reader, need those references before I will even consider what is being said to be credible!

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Q.453 Consciousness is happiness?

Q: I have just read your book ‘How to meet yourself’. I am not sure if I understand what you mean when you say that “Consciousness is happiness” and that “I am happiness”. Since everything is an appearance within consciousness, wouldn’t happiness be just that? Why would we equate consciousness to happiness?

A: Before answering the question, it would be useful to note the difference between Consciousness and consciousness. Consciousness with as capital ‘C’ is used throughout in all of these answers to refer to Brahman, the non-dual reality. The mind is conscious because Consciousness is reflected by the mind. The body and mind are both inert in themselves. It is important not to confuse these terms.

The actual paragraph is:

“Fourthly, it would not be meaningful to talk about Consciousness being happy or unhappy. Being complete and without limitations of any sort, it is more appropriate to say that Consciousness is happiness. This, then, is an aspect of my true nature. Since I am Consciousness, there is nothing that I need, nothing to be achieved, nowhere to which I have to get. I am already perfect and complete – I am happiness”.

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Nothing To Do?

A Question that is often raised in Non-dual discussions is:

“Do you need to “become” brahman or are you brahman already?

“The implication in raising such a question is that there is nothing more to do than just hearing the teaching, “you are already brahman,” and lo, behold, you are brahman!

But such a statement, IMHO, is misleading and even mischievous.

I suggest, therefore, reformulating that question in order to arrive at what actually Advaita points to. The reformulated version would be something like this:

“Are you right now Pure Awareness, unborn and immutable, undivided, immortal and untainted by anything else?
OR
Are you right now Awareness + a load of various other things which are mortal, constantly changing, inert and limited?” Continue reading

‘brahman,’ the Bliss – 2/2

Part – I

Everyone must face the consequences of his/her actions. But who is it that ensures it? Who brings a guy back, once he is dead, and make him reap his just desserts?

The scripture only can provide an answer. And the answer is:   

विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म … |  —  3.9.28 (7), brihadAranyaka

Meaning:  Knowledge, Bliss, brahman.

Shankara explains that It is Pure Intelligence and is also Bliss. It is a Bliss not smitten with pain. It is serene, beneficent, matchless, spontaneous, ever content and homogeneous, he amplifies.

Shankara, however, says, we cannot close the issue at that. We should explore and understand better what exactly the word “Bliss” would mean.

In our normal parlance, “the word ‘bliss’ is generally known to denote pleasure.” The shruti uses the word ‘bliss’ as an adjective to brahman. Can we infer from this that shruti says brahman is pleasurable?

Here are a few more examples where the Upanishads talk of brahman and Bliss: Continue reading

‘brahman,’ the Bliss – 1/2

Ha, finally, a gentle streak of relief seems to have descended on to the faces of the assembled august Audience, sitting on the edge of their seats for hours with knotted foreheads, wide-open eyes and mouths, waiting in tension for the next onslaught of verbal missiles. None in the Royal Assembly could answer the final question of the Challenger and that decided what was at stake for the day. The fierce war of words seems to have come to a close with the well-statured Pundit, an embodiment of Knowledge Supreme, just began to take slow and steady steps, along with a horde of his disciples, followers and admirers, towards the exit door of the Royal Court. The gathered experts started to wipe the drops of sweat on their bald pates, foreheads and chest using their upper garment as a hand towel. Rolls of murmurs and exchanges opened up among small groups of the men, cascading into unclear sounds. Some people were talking within themselves or speaking to nobody in particular as they recapitulated the dense moments and the profound depths of the discussions. Continue reading

Q.450 Witness – mind or Brahman?

Q: Talks that I have been listening to use the terms ‘witness’, ‘eternal witness’ and other synonyms. Is pure consciousness or Brahman this ‘Ultimate Witness’? If so, obviously, it can’t witness unless there’s a manifesting medium to do so, correct? But ‘to witness’ implies duality. Also, it is often said that Brahman is transcendent or beyond the body-mind, and something other than the mithyA universe. So that means, again, that it can witness everything.

How do you reconcile the fact that knowledge is in the mind with Brahman being the witness beyond and apart from it? And how does this fit in with non-duality – there can’t be two things?

A: The effective explanation is ‘adhyAropa-apavAda’. The reality is that there is only non-dual Brahman or Consciousness. You begin with the conviction that the world is real, you are your body etc. Advaita gradually disabuses you of such notions by use of prakriyA-s (teaching ‘ploys’) such as analysis of the states of consciousness, cause and effect, real and unreal, seer and seen. Each of these takes you a little further in understanding. But, once the particular example has served its purpose, it is discarded. Analogy and metaphor can only take one so far; they are means to an end. Metaphors to illustrate this are leaving the boat behind once you have crossed the river, and letting go of the pole in pole vaulting before you go over the bar.

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The Colossus

 Historically (perhaps (?) since the days of Prof. Max Muller and Dr. George Thibet), the Sanskrit word ‘brahman‘ is rendered into English as Consciousness which is ‘caitanya.’ ‘brahman‘ is derived from the root “bRh” which means very huge. The derivation can take many forms like:

bRihatvAt – unimaginably Infinite in expansiveness;

brahmaNatvAt – encloses everything within Itself (all-inclusive);

barhaNatvAt – deliquesces [assimilates (absorbs/dissolves) all into Itself.]

Possibly “Colossus” may have been better or a more appropriate translation for brahman, IMHO, because Consciousness captures only one aspect of brahman, the other two being Beingness and Bliss (going by the popular “sat-cit-Ananda“).

Vedanta offers us three unique prakriyA-s (processes) to ‘understand each of the three aspects of brahman, as follows: Continue reading

Q.449 Definition of Consciousness

Q: Do you have the perfect definition of Consciousness as per Advaita Vedanta?

A: Traditional Advaita prefers to use ‘Brahman’ as referring to the absolute reality, although the aitareya upaniShad says ‘praj~nAnaM brahma’, which is translated as ‘Consciousness is Brahman’. Probably the most famous ‘definition’ (as far as that is possible) is the one in the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1): satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma – Brahman is real/truth/existence – knowledge/consciousness – limitless.

And in 3.1.2, the same Upanishad says that one should strive to know that from which all these beings are born, that in which they live and exist, and that to which they return – that is Brahman.

Brahman is the sRRiShTi sthiti laya kAraNa – the cause of the creation, maintenance and destruction of everything.

And so on! There are lots of ‘pointers’ but no definition as such, as explained in the answers above.

Q: Maybe I’m asking about consciousness with a lower case ‘c’ – I just want to know how you would define that word.

A: Nothing special here. The Sanskrit word is ‘chit’. Swami Dayananda’s definition is ‘limitless self-effulgent awareness; the self-revealing’. The book ‘A-U-M’ tells you all about the ‘states of consciousness’ and that their ‘substratum’ is turIya. See the article I wrote about ‘states’ of consciousness (https://www.advaita-vision.org/states-of-consciousness-2-3-4-and-1-2/).

Consciousness, brahman and mokSha

The taittirIya Upanishad explains brahman as:

सत्यं ज्ञानमनन्तं ब्रह्म ।  — 2.1.1, taittirIya upa.

[Beingness, Knowingness and Infiniteness is brahman.]

Unending Beingness and Knowingness is the nature of brahman.

There are two endpoints for anything in this world — one is the beginning and the other is the ending. But brahman, The Knowingness, as the Upanishad says is Infinite, without limitations or edges or endpoints. It has neither a beginning (origination) nor an end (culmination).

From a common sense point of view, it may be argued that “Knowingness” cannot exist on Its own in the absence of a knower and something to be known. Can Knowingness ‘be’ in a vacuum? Is Its presence not dependent on a knower who would have been the locus for It? In the usual parlance, knowingness is that which interlinks the ‘knower’ with the ‘known.’ With the two end-members being absent, can ‘Knowingness’ exist on its own independent of the other two? Continue reading

Q.494 Brahman and the World

Q: There is potential confusion between ‘knowing about it’ and actually ‘being it’; between ‘self-realization’ and ‘self-actualization’. ‘Knowing about it’ is in the mind, whereas ‘being it’ has nothing to do with the mind. Along these lines is why Nisargadatta always said that who-we-really are is prior to the body-mind and Consciousness and to leave them alone.

What are your thoughts about all this?

A: Basically, we are already Brahman. The problem is that we do not know it. Remove the ignorance and we realize the truth. You cannot ‘experience’ or ‘perceive’ Brahman. You can only realize that we are it. Hence, the term ‘anubhava’ is misunderstood and modern teachers have been propagating a misunderstanding of the teaching. The term ‘self-actualization’ is definitely a modern one, I think, and can mean nothing. How can you ‘make actual’ what is already the case? Continue reading