Q.528 Confusions in Advaita

Q: I am reading your book ” Confusions in Advaita Vedanta”.

I am from India, born in the Smarta Brahmin tradition of The revered Adi Shankara.
The purport of Adi Shankara as repeatedly explained by you is that no pramana or meditation except shabda pramana, teaching of scripture expounded by qualified teacher can give jnana. And this understanding happens in the process of listening once. Repetitions don’t help.

This caused both enthusiasm and later negativity in me. I have heard scriptures being expounded by Swami Dayananda, Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Brahmananda, Swami Parthasarathy, Sri Gangolli (translator of Swami Satchidananendra) etc. But no understanding or Jnana has resulted.

Am I doomed? Or Does it mean I was not qualified enough? More yoga sadhana required for purifying my mind? Of course there can be no doubt that the teachers were qualified. So fault is mine.

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pratibandha-s – part 4 of 10

Read Part 3

j~nAna phalam

Here is the sequence of events that I believe represents the traditional understanding:

  • A would-be seeker practices sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti for a length of time in order to gain the qualities of mind (and the overriding desire to attain mokSha) needed to qualify for ‘approaching a qualified teacher’.
  • The seeker gains Self-knowledge from listening to a qualified guru, i.e an enlightened shrotriya [someone with deep knowledge of the shruti, including Sanskrit], who belongs to a qualified sampradAya [teaching lineage]), as he explains the scriptures. This is the stage of shravaNa.
  • When there are no further doubts, the ‘final hearing’ triggers akhaNDAkAra vRRitti (same as brahmakAra vRRitti, but used more frequently) and the seeker thereby immediately becomes a j~nAnI.
  • Whilst there are still doubts, the seeker asks questions of the teacher to clarify and explain. This is the stage of manana. shravaNa and manana are then repeated for as long as needed.
  • The gaining of Self-knowledge simultaneously means that the seeker now knows that he or she is already free. (You can say that they are ‘simultaneously liberated’ if you really want, but this conveys the erroneous notion that they were not free before.) Note that the phalam of ‘j~nAna phalam’ cannot simply refer to mokSha (mukti) because you cannot gain as fruit something that you already have!
  • If the seeker had done sufficient sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti (SCS) previously, he or she also simultaneously gains the phalam (= become a jIvanmukta). (See Section 3o for a discussion on the topic of jIvanmukti.)
  • If their SCS was insufficient, they do not immediately gain the phalam. I.e. they have pratibandha-s and they need to do more nididhyAsana in order to remove them. Thus, they may get the phalam later in life. If they do not, they get videha mukti at death of the body-mind (when the prArabdha karma is used up). (see section 3p)

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Debate with a crypto-buddhist – 5

S. Whatever we call ‘Knowing our true nature’ it is something that is doubt free and possible in any given moment. It is always present no matter what the circumstances are, positive or negative, with thoughts and without them. This knowing is of a radiant nature that encompasses all appearances. It is all appearances, nothing is separated from it. If this is your experience, then indeed, your path has borne fruit. If not, finding a real teacher is of paramount importance. Nothing can replace what we call Transmission. A real teacher introduces you to your own nature directly.

M. You speak the words of Advaita Vedanta, including “a real teacher is of paramount importance”. It is indeed very helpful, almost indispensable — but, essential? Please allow me to make a few points for your consideration:

1). The teacher of teachers, guru of gurus, Dattatreya (as per the Avadhut Gita), when asked from whom he obtained his wisdom he replied that he had had 24 gurus: water, earth, space, moon, sun, maker of arrows… Yes, of course, not anyone can be a Dattatreya, the supreme guru – he had what we can call ‘spontaneous – or congenital – Atmanubhava’ (final intuition). But intuition is universal. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth’ (Spiritus ubi vult spirat).

2). In the Gaudapada karika 1-18 (Gaudapada being grand-guru of Shankaracharya) one reads that ‘all concepts like Prapañcha (world of duality) – guru, shishya (disciple), etc., – are mere misconceptions. In his bhashya to this karika Shankara states that ‘these ideas are for the purpose of teaching which are (appear as) true until one realises the Highest Truth’. Then, as I wrote before, ‘mind becomes no-mind’ since there are no longer any objects, no multiplicity at all remaining.

3). As to Transmission of spiritual power from teacher to disciple (shaktipat), this is prominent in forms of Tantra, and one reads that Abhinavagupta elaborated on it extensively, but it is not a tenet of AV, as implied by what was said under #2.


S. Regarding #3: Transmission. This is something that is quite commonly misunderstood as something given or received. There is no giving of anything, nor receiving of anything. When circumstances converge and there is a conjunction between teacher/friend and seeker, there can be an unusual meeting of minds. This is just a figure of speech, but there is something behind this which cannot be shown. It is not Shaktipat which is really transference of energy that many people have experienced in the presence of certain people. This is not what I’m referring to at all.

Having a living friend with whom you can talk and observe someone who has ‘realized’ the ‘Highest Truth’ can be the greatest gift one can get. You see the living embodiment of this. That’s all I can really say about it. I would think the Hindu term ‘Darshan’ would be appropriate. Since your choice of traditions is Advaita, I would seek out someone whom you think is a living embodiment of it.



Nathan Gill


gillNathan Gill (1960 – 2014)


As Consciousness You are already awake and aware. In the play of life when there is exclusive focus as the individual, Your true nature is forgotten and there is complete involvement in searching for enlightenment or awakening. But You already are aware, already completely awake; it’s simply that this is veiled by appearances, the story of ‘me’ as an individual.

Whenever Your true nature is remembered the spell is broken. The pursuit of enlightenment is clearly seen as nothing more than the cosmic lIlA. Awakeness is already the case under all circumstances, regardless of contrary appearances in the play.


The guru and the disciple appear as images in the cosmic lIlA – the play of life. Maybe the storyline in the play is that through grace the disciple receives the blessing of the guru, and for as long as there is entrancement with the story of ‘me’ this can be an enthralling drama. In actuality though there is no transmission of anything from one to another because there simply isn’t anyone.


No one becomes enlightened because in actuality there isn’t anyone. Only within the story in the play of life does striving to transcend individuality appear to have validity.

There is no individual that could become enlightened; no one that needs to attain or realize anything. The drama of striving to achieve enlightenment through various practices is limited to the play of appearances. What practice is needed to simply be?

All quotations from private Emails, reproduced in Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita (Paperback), Dennis Waite, O Books, Feb 2007, ISBN-10: 1905047614. Buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Q.349 – Guru’s grace

Q: Do you have any comments on the concept of “guru’s grace” or ‘shaktipat guru’; the idea that some teachers are able to ‘induce’ experience in seekers or ‘transmit’ knowledge or ‘spiritual power’? Numerous reports of this sort of thing abound in the literature, and I myself have experienced something along these lines many years ago from a “mystical teacher” I followed for a couple of years in 1978-1980. I wonder what is actually going on in this sort of incident. Is it just 100% psychology at work, pure self-deception? Such “transmission” experiences can often be the seed or catalyst which spurs further effort on the path. There are so many examples of an aspirant “feeling something” in the presence of a teacher or guru that it seems inappropriate to just dismiss such claims outright.

A (Ted): It is true that some teachers can “induce” experiences in seekers.  The teacher’s ability to do this might be called a “spiritual” power in the sense that is seems both extraordinary – i.e. something most people can’t do – and mystical – i.e. beyond the normal range of mundane or worldly occurrences. The qualitative effect of this energy transmission on the seeker might, as well, be referred to as “spiritual power” in the sense that it powers up one’s mind-body-sense complex – most specifically the subtle body – in the same way that an influx of warm air heats up a room or the blare of dance music livens up a party. Continue reading

Q.342 – Teachings of Nisargadatta and Ramana

Q: Is there a difference in the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj?

A (Dennis): This is too general a question, really. The short answer is that the bottom-line message of any teacher of Advaita must be the same, obviously. But the methodology depends upon the teacher lineage. Nisargadatta did have a lineage, although his own style developed somewhat! And Ramana did not have a lineage at all. The absence of a lineage means that what is said lacks rigor and is subject to differing interpretations etc. This is why the recommendation is always to try to find a qualified, traditional teacher.

Q: I do realize that my question was too general and could not be dealt with in a short answer. What I had in my mind was with regard to their approaches to meditation/ self enquiry or the “path” recommended by them. In self enquiry Ramana stated that while enquiring into “who am I?” the I that is enquired into is the individual or the ego and not the Self. According to him, focusing on the ego or I would make one realize that it is a phantom and thus lead one to the Self. Nisargadatta, on the other hand, seems to suggest that one should focus directly on I am, which is the same as the Self. In this sense, I thought there was some difference in their teaching. Continue reading