Q: I am just back from a vacation in Greece where I enjoyed a few days of reading Taoism: living in the spirit of Tao is the easy way of just floating with the stream of life. This means just living from our intuition instead of using our intellect performing the mental acrobatics of Advaita Vedanta. Indeed, as Wittgenstein pointed out correctly, one should remain silent instead of speaking (words are merely hindering tautologies) the unspeakable.
We lost our so-called enlightenment through our education/conditioning which did not happen where people still live (or lived) in harmony with the ‘natural flow of life’. This also means that, for us to recover enlightenment, life (Tao) is the only teacher and no so-called person should be considered a teacher.
A: It is certainly true that silence avoids the ambiguity of words! But since our problem is one of Self-ignorance, clearly knowledge is needed. I don’t believe that life can bring you that knowledge. My own experience is that life tends to increase identification and sense of separation. I suggest that most people leave life with greater Self-ignorance than they had to begin with. The words of Advaita do not, in any case, speak the truth; they merely point to it.
It is not the case that we begin our life in an enlightened state. ‘Enlightenment’ means Self-knowledge, not innocence. Innocence has much more in common with ignorance! In any case, are not education and conditioning an inevitable part of life? In which case, if life brought us to this condition, how should more life now remove it?
Living a life of tranquility, away from the trials of modern life at one with nature might well be very nice (though not very practicable for most people). But it would not bring about Self-knowledge!
Some time ago (31st Oct 2020), during our prolonged discussions (beginning early Sept 2020) upon whether the world literally disappears when a jIva gains enlightenment (Ramesam and Venkat say that it does and I deny that), Ramesam asked me to provide references to support comments that I had made. Since this topic is very relevant to Volume 2 of my book on ‘Confusions in Advaita’, I have been researching and writing about it for the past 6 months. Since the various aspects now take up some 30,000 words plus, I will not be posting any more material – you will have to wait for publication of the book, unfortunately unlikely to be before 2023.
Apologies to readers who will find that this post is not particularly readable or directly helpful. The book presents all of the arguments in a logical and readable manner, only using the indicated quotations as supporting material. Here, the references only are presented solely to complete the earlier discussions and provide ‘answers’ to Ramesam and Venkat as the pUrvapakShin-s.
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 →
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:
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.