Is the Eastern/Western distinction in philosophy useful and meaningful?

It definitely is. By and large, Eastern philosophy differs from the Western-type in more than one respect. Firstly, its orientation is much more holistic, by which I mean going beyond logical analysis and the interests of empiricism – including science (the OBJECT) – and touching on human realities and interests (the SUBJECT). Eastern philosophy can thus be characterized as having a religious-mystical dimension which incorporates a soteriology (release or liberation rather than ‘individual salvation’)* and which one can find only in different forms in the West in the philosophies of Stoicism, Epicureanism, and the Cynics. Eastern philosophy has persisted for thousands of years in its geographic areas of spread and is still dominant there, although more recently there has been a Western influence in Indian philosophy, where Hegel, Heidegger, Plato, etc., are being increasingly studied. This is the case mostly in academic circles – and vice versa, East to West, but in the latter case not so much in Academia. Continue reading

pratibandha-s – part 8 of 10

Read Part 7

Yogic Advaita

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

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 6/6:

[Part – 5

One may think that the household and other responsibilities are impediments standing in the way of Non-dual practice. If one has followed this talk carefully, it can be seen that those are not obstructions at all. The seeker has to dissolve them all into his/her ‘Knowingness.’  People who are unable to do so call it as their ‘prArabdha’ – the inescapable effect of past actions. Concepts like the effects of past actions is invalid in Advaita. In fact, Advaita holds that the world itself does not exist because there is no creation and nothing was ever born. How then can prArabdha exist? There is no scope for rebirth or prArabdha when birth itself has not taken place. Continue reading

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 5/6:

[Part – 4/6]

‘pratyabhijna’ and ‘pravilApana’ form the two limbs of Advaita sAdhana. We have to practice these two with full involvement and clear understanding. Total commitment and unswerving focus are necessary for this practice to happen.

All our thoughts are the particulars sparkling out of the Knowingness. If we look at our thoughts from the stance of Knowingness, everything that is noticed including the body will dissolve in that vision. It is pravilApana.

We have to keep paying attention to the Beingness everywhere. Be focused on the all-pervading space-like Beingness which is present at every spot and ignore the form that pops up at each locus. It is important that we should not look at the Beingness as if it is an object sitting out there. We should get the feel that it is “I” as Beingness and Knowingness that is present at each locus. Such a vision requires total involvement. Continue reading

The Consolations of Bodhayana’s Sutras

It is now almost three weeks since I lost my father. A massive cardiac arrest took him within seconds of him even realizing that anything was wrong with his heart; there are things good and bad about such a passing (although in a deeper sense it is all good): the death is completely painless, but leaves you and those close and near to you in a situation that Hamlet the King so brilliantly defines in Hamlet.

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head: Continue reading

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 4/6:

[Part – 3]

If the world is the superstructure, like what is seen in a magic show, the Magician is the Knower, the Substratum! A seeker on the Knowledge Path pierces through the multiple layers of the superstructure to discover the base. He finds what is at the core. He knows that the ‘Universal’ has to be present wherever a ‘particular’ manifests. For example, if there is a bubble or foam or spray or a wave, he knows that water is the substance inside them all. Even an eddy can “be,” only if there is water.

The Advaitic seeker, hence, goes behind the apparent form to find the ‘Reality.’ He is aware that the world is merely an appearance of The Supreme Self and that the Universal and the particular exist woven together as the warp and the weft. Therefore, he understands that there is no occasion to be overwhelmed by the ‘appearance.’

Continue reading

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.

 

 

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 3/6:

[Part – 2]

Our mind is accustomed to get the impression of an object which has a finite shape (form). It is easy for the mind to think of finite forms. But AtmA is formless. Further, if AtmA were to be located at a particular place, the mind can see in that direction to find the AtmA. But AtmA is everywhere. It exists in all directions, at all points; there is no specific locus for It. The mind cannot look for It in all directions at the same time. The doctrine also says that AtmA is not an object to be seen but is “my own real nature.” How do I see my own nature? Therefore, it feels like a big effort to get a thought that corresponds to the AtmA.

As a result, we find the practice (sAdhana) in Advaita to be difficult. However,  the very problems could be the cues which help us to have AtmAnubhava. We have from Bhagavad-Gita,

प्रत्यक्षावगमं धर्म्यं सुसुखं कर्तुमव्ययम्    —   9.2, Bhagavad-Gita.

[Meaning:  Immediately comprehensible, unopposed to dharma, very easy to perform, imperishable.]

Krishna says that the Self is seen directly and easily at every locus. We need to understand carefully the implication of this statement. Continue reading

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 2/6:

[Part – 1/6]

In order to experience the Self, AtmAnubhava, we should first know where the “I” is. If the ‘I’ is not already with us, we have to make an effort to obtain it.

In general, there are three ways by which we can obtain a thing. Say, we have to obtain a pot. If no pot is available, we have to newly produce (make) one. Or suppose it is available with someone or somewhere. We have to procure it from that place. Or, a pot is available but it is dusty or dirty. We have to wash off the dirt and make it neat and clean. These three ways are known as utpatti (production), Apti or prApti (procurement) and samskriti (refinement) respectively. Now let us apply it to the problem we have.

Do we have to newly produce the Self, or get It from some other place, or cleanse and refine the Self that already exists?

One may produce an idol or a symbol of a deity but none can manufacture the formless Self. Moreover, the knowledge that “I am” is already with us and that knowing itself is the Self. Therefore, we need not newly produce the Self. Continue reading

‘sAdhana in Advaita’ – 1/6:

[This Series of posts is based on Shri Yellamraju Srinivasa Rao (YSR)’s Audio Talk in Telugu – An Overview of The Advaita Doctrine  –   4/192 .The write up here is a free translation after slight modifications and editing. The Talk was described by a seeker as “Powerful and Compelling.” I do not know if I could achieve that ‘force of persuasion and spirit’ in the translation. Yet I hope the Reader gets at least a flavor of the original if not the whole taste in this English rendition.]

Any philosophical knowledge system comprises three components  – The Doctrine (siddhAnta), The Method or the Process (sAdhana) and The Results or the Fruit (siddhi). (‘siddhi‘ is attainment and need not be confused with ‘sAdhya’ which means aim or objective).

The doctrine expounds the subject matter of the teaching. The method or the process is the effort we make to experience what is taught. The result or the fruit is the fructification of our efforts, which is the im-mediated “experiential understanding” of what was taught.

We begin the study of any subject with an intention to learn and implement, and complete the study with an experiential understanding of the subject. We hope to experience a feeling of satiation at the end of the study. The effort to implement what we learn, sAdhana, therefore, is an important part of any teaching. ‘siddhAnta’ or the teaching is like a recipe, while ‘sAdhana’ is like cooking a dish following the recipe. In fact, the Sanskrit word sAdhana also means cooking! The siddhi or the fruit is the ‘contentment’ we get after eating the dish. Continue reading