mANDUkya upaniShad Part 1

I have just started reading the massive commentary on the mANDUkya, Gaudapada kArikA-s and Shankara bhAShya (if it was Shankara) by Divyaj~nAna Sarojini VaradarAjan, so I thought it might be appropriate to post my own translation and commentary on the Upanishad itself from ‘A-U-M’.

The VaradarAjan book is in two volumes and, as far as I am aware, is only available from Exotic India at £65 to post to the UK. Only 500 copies were printed and these may sell out quickly as her Upanishad commentaries are unparalleled.

My own book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’ is a ‘by topic’ rather than verse by verse commentary, although it does cover all of the material. The specific translation and commentary on the 12 verses of the Upanishad itself are relegated to an Appendix, since the material is rather ‘dense’, and the tone less ‘conversational’ than the main body of the book. It is available from Amazon:

Book ($34.95): Buy from Amazon US; Kindle ($16.49): Buy from Amazon US

Book (£20.99): Buy from Amazon UK; Kindle (£6.99): Buy from Amazon UK

This series will post the whole of Appendix 1 of ‘A-U-M’ and, in general, each post will cover one verse of the Upanishad. This first post, however, covers the shAnti pATha – the traditional prayer at the beginning of an Upanishad – and Shankara’s introduction.

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The Final Paradox – ahaṃ brahmāsmi

Shankara’s explanation in Bhagavad Gita bhāṣya 2.21

[Note that this is a ‘stand-alone’ article which nevertheless supplements the material asking ‘Who am I?’ in the pratibandha posts beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-5-of-7/. It provides a response to Venkat’s challenge at https://www.advaita-vision.org/verse1-of-drg-drsya-vivek-an-analysis-of/#comment-9797]

Reality is non-dual. All Advaitins know that this is the teaching, even if they have not yet succeeded in reconciling this with the appearance of the world and their own apparent individuality.

The Self does not act. The jñānī knows this. The well-known statement in Bhagavad Gita 5.8-9 tells us that: The balanced person who knows the truth thinks: ‘I do nothing at all; it is only the senses relating to their sense objects,’ even whilst seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, excreting or grasping; even just opening or closing the eyes. It is all simply the ‘play of the guṇa-s’, name and changing form, like the movement of waves on the surface of the ocean – all is always only water.

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Q.505 Creation and Enlightenment

Q: I am struggling to reconcile the empirical account of what may be called ‘creation’ (the Big Bang, followed by billions of years of mechanically unfolding interactions with no sense of self, until the absurdly *recent* emergence of consciousness after further millions of years of blind evolution) with the advaitic concept of ‘creation’ (the absolute Being, timeless and changeless, manifesting in Itself as experience). 

A: The ‘bottom line’ of Advaita is that there has never been any ‘creation’. There is only Brahman. Everything is Brahman. You are Brahman. The ‘universe’ is simply a ‘form’ of Brahman, to which you have given ‘names’ implying that there are separately existing entities.

The scriptures (from which Advaita derives) certainly give ‘empirical accounts’ of a creation. But these are interim explanations only to satisfy the enquirer temporarily until ready to accept the truth.

Science does attempt to rationalize consciousness as an emergent phenomenon, but it is doomed to fail because it cannot objectify the ultimate subject. See my article on ‘Consciousness – Not Such a Hard Problem’ beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/consciousness-not-such-a-hard-problem-1-of-2/. Also https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-consciousness/. Science in general is intrinsically unable to address the problems dealt with by Advaita. See my 4-part article on ‘Science and the nature of absolute reality’ beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-the-nature-of-absolute-reality-part-1/, which may contain useful pointers. And the 3-part article by Dr. Sadananda beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-vedanta-part-1/

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Gaudapada on the Appearance of a world

The most “radical version of Non-dual teaching” goes back to Revered Gaudapada (of 5th or 6th CE) who forms a watershed mark in the Advaita tradition. With him started the human form lineage of teacher-disciple. (Before him it was a lineage of Sages preceded by the lineage of Gods – see here).

Gaudapada says that we are prisoners of an unwavering belief in cause-effect relationships. He avers that cause-effect relationships do not exist. For example, he writes:

नास्त्यसद्धेतुकमसत्सदसद्धेतुकं तथा ।
सच्च सद्धेतुकं नास्ति सद्धेतुकमसत्कुतः ॥  — 4.40, Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya Upanishad.

Meaning: The unreal cannot have the unreal as its cause. Nor can the real be produced from the unreal. The real cannot be the cause of the real. And it is much more impossible for the real to be the cause of the unreal. (Translation: Swami Nikhilananda). Continue reading

Q.489 Creation and reincarnation

Q: Is Ishvara/mAyA the one responsible for the form of the universe or is the jiva responsible for it?

If Ishvara/mAyA:

  • 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

The Great Indian Rope Trick:

The famous Indian Rope Trick is Shankara’s favorite to illustrate how the world or an individual separate ‘self’ originates. He says that it is like the mesmerizing show created by a Magician, himself being unaffected and uninvolved and standing unseen, “veiled magically,” on the ground. Here are three instances where Shankara refers to the Rope Trick in his Commentaries:

Shankara @ 7, Ch 1, Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya:

The magician throws the rope up in the sky, climbs by it with hands, disappears from sight (of the spectators), engages himself in a fight (in the sky) in which his limbs, having been severed, fall to the ground and he rises again. The onlooker, though witnessing the performance, does not evince any interest in the thought in regard to the reality of the magic show performed by the magician. Similarly, there is a real illusionist who is other than the rope and the one that climbs up the rope. Continue reading

Q. 482 What happens after videha mukti?

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?

A: There have been a couple of questions around this before – see http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/q_and_a/q_and_a44.htm#q263 for example.

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.

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Shankara and Mind

In his comments on the post ‘SamAdhi Again (Part 2)‘, Venkat said: “Dayananda has nothing useful to say about realisation. All of his statements are his mundane interpretations that don’t reconcile to anything that the great masters from Gaudapada and Sankara have said.”

And “Could you provide a couple of quotes from Sankara to support your Dayananda comment:
“Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it””

This attitude was also supported by Shishya in his comment on the same post: “I think Venkat put it very well.”

Accordingly, I have collected together a number of quotations that support the contention that only knowledge (and not action or samAdhi etc.) produces enlightenment; that ‘enlightenment’ is nothing other than Self-knowledge arising in the mind; and that the mind continues after enlightenment. These quotations demonstrate that those readers who have been criticising Swami Dayananda and his followers have been doing so unjustly.

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A. Bhagavad Gita bhASya

2.21

“(Similarly) the same Self, which is in reality beyond all changes of state, is called ‘enlightened’ on account of discriminative knowledge separating the Self from the not-self, even though such knowledge is only a modification of the mind and illusory in character (and implies no real change of state).

2.56

“Moreover that monk (i.e. man of realization) is then called a man of steady wisdom; when his mind is unperturbed; when his mind is unperturbed by the sorrows that come on the physical or other planes; …and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger.

and BG 2.55 says that a stitha praj~na is a man who drives away all desires that crop up in the mind. Continue reading

The Model of Insight

It occurred to me whilst reading Joseph Campbell’s Pathway to Bliss, that if we have no models of nameless now, then, well, we have no models.

Whatever conclusions we draw from this are our own doctrine(s) making themselves visible. For some the need to qualify and argue with such a proposition is tantamount (regardless of whether or not the author suggests their words be broadcast as superior wisdom or truer truths). For others there exists a desire to understand what it means for their own insight-now-moment.

660467Swami Krishnananda says there is, “a transference of human attributes to the Divine Existence [when] one contemplates the Cosmos as one’s Body. Just as, for example, the one contemplates one’s individual body, one simultaneously becomes conscious of the right eye, the left eye, [and so on] and all the limbs of the body at one and the same time, and one does not regard the different limbs of the body as distinguished from one another in any way, all limbs being only apparently different but really connected to a single personality, so in [the Vaisvanar Vidya] meditation, the consciousness is to be transferred to the Universal Being. Instead of one contemplating oneself as the individual body, one contemplates oneself as the Universal Body… The limbs of the Cosmic Person are identified with cosmic elements and vice versa, so that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara…” (p6)

He goes on to say, “[that] whatever our mind can think, becomes an object for the mind; and that object, again, should become a part of the meditator’s Body, cosmically. And, the moment the object that is conceived by the mind is identified with the Cosmic Body, the object ceases to agitate the mind anymore; because that object is not any more outside…” (pp6-7)

Then, perhaps, even though we have no models of it (at least none we recognise as such), the notion of the mind itself can be identified with the Cosmic Body, with the Cosmic Existence; and rather than ‘objects of the mind’ becoming part of the ‘meditator’s body’ (in order to transfer consciousness to the Universal Being), contemplation itself can be identified with the Cosmic.

This would ostensibly cut out the middle man, so our every moment is a cosmic contemplation, simultaneously one as the so-called appearance of not-one. Whence it would be a function of the one for what we have labelled the appearance of not-one to fathom itself however it fathoms itself (rather than a path taken or not taken by an individual). And all that is apparently different but really inter-conected to a single field or oneness, would be known-felt-explained in those terms – oneness as an organic contemplation of oneself, cosmically.

References
The Māndūkya Upanishad (1996) by Swami Krishnananda

Pathway to Bliss: Mythological and personal transformation (2004) by Joseph Campbell

A-U-M Awakening to Reality – Review of book

‘Lucid and exhaustive of most important book in Advaita Vedanta’

The Mandukya Upanishad, the shortest (it has just 12 verses) and , according to a general opinion, the most important of the 12 main Upanishads, has the added interest in being associated with the authoritative karikas of Gaudapada, grand-mentor of Shankaracharia, the initiator of Advaita Vedanta. Of the former it has been said that his is ‘a rational analysis of the totality of our experience in all three states: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Incomplete and insufficient will be any philosophy that is based on the waking state alone’ (Swami Brahmananda).

‘When everything has been said, the fact remains that Vedanta is the only way of thinking that claims to study life in all its aspects in a scientific manner. It treats of truth, wisdom, and happiness, subjects of eternal interest to mankind. The credit of having brought to the notice of thinkers the value of its all-comprehensive method revealed in the Upanishads, and of having successfully built an impregnable system on that solid basis, will ever belong to Gaudapada.’ (Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati).

This new book, authored by the well-known (and, one could say, prolific writer in the field of Advaita Vedanta – this is his 7th book), Dennis Waite, has several features that make of it an important addition to the literature in this specialized area, one that is becoming much better known than it was some 10-20 years ago.

Beginning with a few general remarks, something that strikes the reader is the clarity of the writing and the logic of the exposition of its contents which, at first sight, appears to be an introductory text for the un-initiated. Far from it! – and it is not a question of its length (420 pages) or even of the exhaustive coverage of everything that is relevant to the Upanishad itself and Gaudapada’s running commentary in the karikas. Clear and didactic it is, but the tools (armamentarium), organization of the work, and employment of many important Sanskrit words together with their English translation, plus a long Glossary (41 pp.), make of this book an indispensable reference for the modern reader of both this important Upanishad and Gaudapada’s contribution.

An important feature of the book consists in the numerous references (81 in all!) – most of them with short-to-medium length descriptions of the tenets or arguments of the, mostly modern, authors consulted when DW was in the process of preparing this work (Annotated Bibliography – 33 pp.)

Apart from the illuminating Introduction (36 pp.) and ‘What the Mandukya Upanishad is About’ at the beginning, the following 7 sections are: The World Appearance, Causality, Creation, Nature of Reality, Self-Knowledge, Practical Aspects, and Conclusion. They are all important, certainly, but I found ‘Nature of Reality’ to be like a centre-piece.

There are 7 Appendices at the end, comprising altogether 95 pp. To give one an idea of the completeness of the work, one of the Appendices (No. 5) deals with pronunciation and transliteration, using a recently proposed method: ITRANS. Lastly, a full Index, containing also a list of all the karikas mentioned in the book. AM