samAdhi (part 1)

Experience versus knowledge – a brief look at samAdhi

I do not know an awful lot about neo-Vedanta. The term is generally applied to the teaching ‘introduced’ by Swami Vivekananda and carried on by the disciples of the Ramakrishna movement. There has been much written on this topic (which I have obviously not read!) and those who are interested will know that there are many contentious issues. Refer, for example to the book ‘Neo-Vedanta and Modernity’ by Bithika Mukerji, which may be read or downloaded at http://www.anandamayi.org/books/Bithika2.htm.

However, one aspect that I am aware of is that neo-Vedanta claims that enlightenment is attained through the experience of nirvikalpa samAdhi. They also insist that Shankara himself stated this, whereas what I would call ‘traditional’ Advaitins believe that Shankara’s teaching was that it is self-ignorance that obscures our understanding of the truth and that only self-knowledge can remove it. Thus, one of the key issues around the topic of neo-Vedanta is that of experience versus knowledge. Accordingly, at the risk of inciting acrimonious discussions (!), I would like to look briefly at this assertion that samAdhi is a sine qua non for enlightenment. Continue reading

Swami Dayananda

dayanandaIn case anyone has not yet heard, Swami Dayananda passed away yesterday, the 23rd September, at 22.18 IST in Rishikesh. Unquestionably the greatest teacher of Advaita in our lifetimes, he must certainly rank as one of the most important ever. Fortunately the legacy of his own writings and transcriptions, and that of the institutions he founded and the teachers he taught, will live on to the benefit of future seekers.

As a topical example of his teaching, I would like to reproduce the following pieces on the subject of manonAsha. These are extracted from the excellent book already recommended in these pages: ‘Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati – his uniqueness in the vedanta sampradaya’ by D. Venugopal.

manonaSha or Thought-free-mind Confusion

There is also a widespread contention among the adherents of aShTANga-yoga that the truth of the self is covered by vRRittis (thought-forms) and it has to be uncovered by stoppage of thoughts (citta-vRRitti-nirodha). Pujya Swamiji clarifies that thought is not the problem. He says:

“The confusion comes from the statement that AtmA is undivided (nirvikalpa). The vision of the ShAstra is that while the knower, known, and knowledge are not separate from AtmA, AtmA is independent of all of them. In MANDukya UpaniShad and in the kArikA, the dreamer is cited as proof that there is no real division (vikalpa) such as dreamer, dream and dreamt, even though during the dream, the division was taken to be real. Continue reading