Following an extended, off-line discussion, I have added a new sub-section to Volume 1 of my next book, ‘Confusions in Advaita Vedanta’ and I am posting this below. I am currently in the process of editing the proof copy of the book and it will be published by Indica Books in Varanasi, hopefully in 2022. Details will, of course, be provided as soon as it is available. It will be printed in hardback and paperback but unfortunately not in electronic format.
As Sureshvara puts it in his Naiṣkarmya Siddhi (1.73):
“And tell me what possible cause could there be for action on the part of one who is established in the Absolute and has become everything, both individually and collectively, not seeing anything as other than himself.” (Ref. 7)
Q: On your website ‘Advaita vision’” in the article ‘Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge’ is the axiom mentioned that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed): the Seer-Seen discrimination (dŗg dŗśya viveka). Are there other such fundamental axioms within Advaita Vedanta and if so, can you give an overview of the main ones?
A: I would say there are not really ‘axioms’ in Advaita. What there are is ‘prakriyā-s’. These are teaching ‘techniques’ to help you to an understanding. The end-point of the teaching – that there is only Brahman, the world is mithyā and you are Brahman – is not provable. It is ‘realized’ to be true when you have listened to the teaching and cleared any doubts. Hence ‘Self-realization’. Seer-seen discrimination is a practical exercise to bring you to the understanding that anything that you are aware of cannot be ‘you’; that you are the ‘ultimate subject’. Read any good book on the essentials of Advaita and other prakriyā-s will be given.
Q: Thank you for your almost instant reply and clear explanation.
First I would like to complement you with your website, which carries a valuable treasure of information. I am exploring every part. Secondly I would like to ask your reflections on a question I have.
Background In our daily western life I see many people unhappily following the path they are on, not having the strength to make a change. In my view this is mainly the result from the way they are (more fundamentally) conditioned: materialistic, externally and scientifically oriented, as well as having a strict dualistic paradigm. At the same time I see how difficult it is for most of the Westerners to switch to a (more spiritual oriented) approach of introspection, in finding a more profound meaning in life and happiness. As I am convinced the ‘internal way’ is ‘the only way out’ in finding real happiness, I have adopted a personal mission: the endorsing of the spiritual regeneration of people around me. The challenge I faced was finding an approach to make this successful, instead of annoying people with my convictions.
1. If upon the death of a jivan-mukta person, the subtle body dissolves and the person does not have go through the cycle of birth and death, this would imply that my sole motivation for attaining enlightenment should be the liberation of the subtle body that resides inside this gross body (since that is what suffers from one birth to another). Does this not in some way refute the idea of realising myself as the supreme consciousness bliss?
2. How is it that law of karma stops to act only on an enlightened being when in essence we are all liberated from the beginning?
3. On living while following the path of karma yoga, how do I decide what actually is the right thing to do in one’s life assuming I don’t have any desires? What Arjuna did in those days was the traditional work assigned to kshatriyas but in present day, since there is no acceptance of the traditional caste system, how do I come to decide what I should do? As a karma yogi has no desires, does all for the Lord, but the problem is coming to know what is to be done and that too, without any desire or attachment. What occupation should be taken or should one retire as a monk?
Q: Is Ishvara/mAyA the one responsible for the form of the universe or is the jiva responsible for it?
then who/what is Ishvara and how does it create the universe?
then how does adhyAsa come into the picture because if Ishvara is the creator then even if adhyAsa is removed then the appearance of the world will still be there.
If the jiva
then why does the world not disappear upon enlightenment (a jiva is responsible for the dream at night whilst asleep, therefore the dream disappears upon waking)
I have heard many examples of gold/ornament with regards to the universe and Brahman (Gold being brahman, the names/forms being the ornaments). I’m not sure I have fully grasped this comparison, in what sense does matter depend on Brahman?
I see that all things are experienced IN consciousness and therefore in that sense the world of objects/atoms/quantum fields etc depends on consciousness/Brahman because the world can not be experienced without consciousness. It doesn’t seem right to me, because it’s not something you could ever refute. Obviously we can’t experience the world without consciousness.Continue reading →
Q: Since feelings, perceptions and thoughts require a body-mind, and who I truly am is Atman (= brahman), then why should one not commit suicide in order to escape their mental suffering? When they die they will only remain as ‘brahman’. I know the concept of karma is used to scare people away from suicide, but this doesnt exist since brahman (who you really are) feels nothing and does not experiernce it. So what do you have other than the concept of karma to logically persuade someone out of suicide?
A: It is the person that ‘suffers’ and contemplates suicide, because he believes himself to be the body-mind and identifies with the perceived pains and negative emotions. If you KNOW that you are Brahman, then you also know that you are not the person. There may still be physical pains and the mind may still throw up negative emotions but there is no longer any identification. You know that you are even now perfect and complete; there is no identification with body, mind or world because you know they are not real. Indeed they are your own ‘manifestations’, simply the effect of past causes that affect the body-mind appearance. They do not affect who-you-really-are. Why try to change them?
But unless the person knows this, you are never going to convince someone who is contemplating suicide. They need more empirically conventional solutions such as drugs and counselling!
If you are not happy with this response, I can throw it open to the other bloggers and see if they come up with anything better.
Q: When the jIva removes the ignorance of his real nature, and realizes Atman is his Real unchanging Self, if the body dissolves, what happens afterwards?
If there is no further birth, do we then remain as Absolute, without name and form, without knowing anything other than pure Self? Is it like space all being uniform without any form? Is there nothing that is known? Surely it doesn’t remain In an absolute ‘stateless state’ of no Knowing?
Your question is based on a misunderstanding. At the empirical level, there is indeed a ‘person’ who may or may not become enlightened. If he/she does gain Self-knowledge, then clearly the outlook of the person for the remainder of his/her ‘life’ is going to be different.
Q: I discovered Advaita Vedanta by beginning to read the satsangs of Robert Adams, an American disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I also read books about the latter. These readings have had a considerable impact on “my” existence, which started to take another turn.
However, there is one point that bothers me, if may say so. Let me explain :
In his satsang “It’s All A Dream” of October 18, 1990, Robert Adams says:
So today we think we are going to make this a better world in which to live, and we are going to save the world, and so on. The world has its own collective karma. It’s going through a phase. Your job is to save yourself. If you find yourself in a burning building, you do not stop to admire the pictures on the wall, you get out of the building as fast as you can. So, when you know you have a short time in this existence you do not stop to play the games of life, you try to find yourself and become free as fast as you can.Continue reading →
As I have pointed out earlier, most of what is referred to as Ramana’s teaching comes from recorded talks or answers that he gave to visiting seekers. Not only were those answers aimed at the level of understanding of the questioner but the transcriptions were made by others, who may not entirely have understood the answers, and they have been translated from those transcriptions by others who may also not have been especially knowledgeable. The text known as ‘Guru Vachaka Kovai (The Garland of Guru’s Sayings)’ is a collection of his teachings recorded by Muruganar, who lived with Ramana for several years. Ramana is stated to have edited and added to the work so that we can assume it does not suffer to the same degree from those shortcomings (although it has been translated from Tamil).
In this work, Ramana specifically addressed the concept of ‘obstacles’ (pratibandha-s) in Chapter 22. It does read as though it applies mainly to the seeker rather than the j~nAnI but verse 620 refers to ‘reaching the destination’, which may then be construed as the entire ‘path’ through to final liberation (videha mukti):
“619. Just as a gem taken from a mine will not have full luster if it is not polished on the grindstone, so the real tapas, the sadhana which one is doing, will not shine well if it is not provided with trials and tribulations on its way.
620. For a big temple-chariot to go along the streets and safely reach its destination, not only the strong linchpins but also the obstructing blocks, which prevent it from dashing into anything by running to the sides of the streets, are indispensable.” (Ref. 204) Continue reading →
This is a term, which I had not encountered before, coined by Fort in Ref. 200. He uses it to refer to those teachers and texts that incorporate elements of sAMkhya and yoga philosophy into their supposedly Advaitic teaching. This applies to texts such as yogavAsiShTha and jIvanmukti viveka, as was already indicated in the discussion on vidyAraNya above. There are also 20 of the later, minor Upanishads that relate to Yoga (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Upanishads) and there is a danger of referring to these to support ideas that are actually alien to traditional Advaita. These ideas are characterized by the notion that Self-knowledge gained through the usual route has to be supplemented by something else before liberation is achieved. Typically, this might be samAdhi or destruction of ego/mind, as discussed above (and below) but even ideas from other traditions might be incorporated. The yogavAsiShTha also has much emphasis on the ‘illusory’ nature of the world. The j~nAnI acts or does not act without any attachment, according to circumstances.
Rather than prArabdha, yogic Advaita tends to refer to vAsanA-s as being the key ‘obstruction’ to mokSha. While we have them, we are bound to the body; once they are purified, we are freed from saMsAra. When destroyed, we gain videha mukti. Continue reading →
Apologies for the delay in continution of this series. I had to do some more background research and I have also been switching to Windows 10 and a new PC for the past 3 weeks!
Post-Shankara contributions to the concept
(I am indebted to Ref. 195 for many of the scriptural citations in this section.)
It is certainly true that there are few references to the word pratibandha in prasthAna traya and Shankara bhAShya, although a number of discussions can be interpreted as referring to the concept. One can certainly argue that the idea of jIvanmukti itself strongly implies that of pratibandha-s. Being ‘in a body’ is clearly a limitation compared to not being so constrained. Indeed, having a body to begin with is said to be the result of ignorance, so the fact that there is still one present implies that there must be some aspect of ignorance still present.
Accordingly, whether or not you accept the idea of prArabdha karma being the reason for the j~nAnI continuing to inhabit a body, it seems that ‘freedom’ cannot be total until the body drops. It is therefore reasonable to think that this body-mind might be susceptible to ‘obstructions’ of various types, while this embodiment continues. The body has needs, after all, and even though there is no longer any identification with the body post-enlightenment, the mind is still very likely to be affected. And the j~nAnI still continues to utilize the Atman-animated-buddhi, as described above. I.e. pratibandha-s are implicit in the differentiation between jIvanmukti and videha mukti. Continue reading →