Q: How do we get the conviction to go on a spiritual quest? Unlike science, there are no indicators to give feedback if this is even the right path. We need to have blind faith in the general idea itself before we venture into it. Can we only do this through negation of the other paths, where apparent validations are possible by material feedback.
A devil’s advocate argument could be to dismiss everything associated with the vedas/upanishads as nonsense, since nothing can be proved. Another way to look at this is to acknowledge that the ancient sages have come up with practices such as yoga and meditation, which sort of proves their intellect and extrapolates on their ability to see things farther than a average person can and thereby have faith in their judgements.
I am not able to articulate my question very well but I hope I got my point across.
A (Ramesam): Man, by his/her very nature, feels incomplete. He seeks fulfillment of what he lacks through effort using his natural or acquired talents. In fact, it is this “lack” that drives his passion for action along the path of the means chosen by him suiting to his comfort-level.
At the most basic level the drives that motivate a man for action are the biological and physiological needs. As described by the Psychologist Maslow, the subtlety of these needs changes from a lower to higher level in the following manner: Continue reading →
ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 2
This is an alternative viewpoint regarding the role of “Repetition” in understanding the core message of advaita. As it often happens, there is nothing like “the right perspective” in these matters. One may use one’s own discretion in evaluating these different points of view.
1. There is no doubt that Repetition helps in getting a thing by heart or to memorize a quote, a mantra, a verse etc.
2. We know ‘Practice maketh perfect’ and practice necessarily involves repetition.
That means, we are making an operation (mostly those that involve neuromotor skills) into a more mechanically executed action – transferring a routine from being a cerebral activity to cerebellar activity.
3. The ‘phala‘ (result) of certain ritualistic karma (like offerings made for the appeasement of gods, gaining merit etc.) is expected to increase proportionally with the number of times the ritual is carried out. (Please see Note: 2 at the end). Continue reading →
ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 1
All of spiritual instruction and learning has two aspects or dimensions: The Theory and Praxis – a doctrine to understand and a method to practice, so that the former may dawn in the seeker’s mind as an experiential realization of his/her own. In advaita Vedanta the goal is to understand the Reality by dispelling the misunderstanding. The final understanding to arrive at is that there is no essential distinction between the jiva (individual self) and Atman (Universal Self), and further, that Atman, the Self, is Brahman (its cosmic extension, as it were). Here the two terms of the polarity, subject-object, get obliterated, given the intuition (anubhUti, akhandAkAra vRtti) that reality is One. Knowing and Being are no longer distinguishable from one another, when Happiness shines self-effulgently and this is encapsulated in the three-pronged expression, sat-chit-Ananda.
The method of imparting the above Non-dual message is usually by teaching (through gradual and progressive steps) so that the seeker intuitively grasps the Reality, the ‘what Is’. Normally a teacher is required for this education; otherwise, the scriptures (basically the prasthAnatraya; the purANas and specific treatises likes the prakaraNa grantha-s being the accessories) are the source to which one can access again and again. Saying ‘again and again’ implies repetition… or does it? Repetition of what? Continue reading →
Q: As I understand, the sense of “I” (distinguished from the ultimate I/Self) is the source of “ignorance”. “Ignorance” leads to “the fear”, which inspires us to attempt to find “enlightenment”. The attempt to find “enlightenment” is the delusion that there is something to gain. The teachings tell us that “enlightenment” is the nature of existence. What needs to happen is the destruction/removal of ignorance, rather than the acquisition of anything. I already feel as if I have approached the “screen” upon which phenomenon occurs. By practicing “neti neti”, I attempt to see what always is, which is a temporary attempt to disregard things that can be seen. Once this happens, there is the inference of blankness/darkness/all-inclusiveness/voidness. And once this practice of “neti neti” is over, I begin to see things come of themselves, from little sparks … flakes of concepts … to their blooming as a climax of a concept. The climax wanes and the concept disappears of itself just as it arose.
A short time after this attempt at enquiry, the ease I had with reality fades. The sense that reality is not okay begins to gradually return. It feels as if I missed something from this experience. At other times, I feel as if perhaps this effort is part of the problem. Maybe the enquiry is meant to be a last ditch attempt to notice the fallacy of trying to do something, or even the attempt to try to do nothing.
Is this the realization? That effort is resistance? That surrender to this fact is the ultimate motion?
How does it happen that one can know “in the mind” that one is free, and yet continue to fall back into the conundrum of no longer feeling this freedom? Moments of complete freedom … knowing that it’s not my business to “do” life, not even to attempt to not “do” life … and yet slowly fall back into the habit? Continue reading →
Q : I am a “solo practitioner” of the advice of Ramana Maharshi, as I understand what I absorb of it. My enquiries move between an apophatic and cataphatic flavor.
When I do this, I am moved to an absolute stillness. Upon ‘coming back’, there is a sensation of still not passing the barrier of stillness. I am not sure how to continue. Should I continue to practice just like this? Until I have destroyed differentiation? Should this be a lesson on what the real really is?
[Note (Dennis): Here are the meanings of those terms from my Oxford dictionary –
apophatic /ap’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through negating concepts that might be applied to him. The opposite of cataphatic.
cataphatic /kat’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through defining God with positive statements. The opposite of apophatic.] Continue reading →
The Sage explains to the dreamer the attitude he should have towards his creation and the means to stop dreaming altogether. By analogy he explains the process of shravana, manana and nididhyasana to attain moksha.
Q: I can see I need to live more austerely, and I am prepared to sacrifice much to bring about a more lucid and disciplined spiritual practice, but if I am honest, sacrificing those pleasures will have their cost and I will miss them. I would give up nearly anything to find a way forward, but I have heard that unless giving up pleasures is seen as so necessary it isn’t actually a sacrifice, it won’t produce any progress, making it pointless. I am confused. Living austerely definitely means sacrifice, and I could do it, but what’s the point in doing it if it won’t work? I hope I have been clear. If you could tell me what you think, I would be most grateful.
A (Sitara): Your emphasis on austerities and sacrifice indicates that you are influenced by a tradition other than Advaita Vedanta. While following dharma (an ethical lifestyle) has its place in Advaita Vedanta, it does not require austerities. It just means “be fair”, i.e. treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated. Also following a spiritual practice of meditation and prayer is thought of as beneficial for the seeker; but there is no need for much sacrifice here either, except for remaining with it even if sometimes inconvenient – having to get up a little earlier for example. Continue reading →
Q: I can see that whatever is seen cannot possibly be me, the seer, the perceiver. The perceiver cannot be perceived because it is perceiving. That seems really obvious and clear (usually, not always, don’t need to claim any more than is really the truth at present.) Whatever practices, meditations I’ve ever done always end up at the same place: I come back to I/me, the perceiver. Whatever experiences of bliss, ecstasy, I’ve had always end up going away. I come back to: I, the perceiver. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care whether some bliss state occurs because I know it won’t last, and, ha, it took many years of going through the same thing over and over again. I’d have that bliss state, or whatever we might want to call it, try to hold on to it, be disappointed when it went away and then “work” to get it back again!!! Seems absurd now… …the question is: I guess I continue to understand that I can’t be what I perceive, whether outwardly, in the world, or inwardly, persona maybe….just continue to come back to “I” perceiving all this? There is no particular joy in this or happiness, in the sense that I know all these experiences don’t last. But there seems to be some bed-rock perceiver which doesn’t go away except in deep, dreamless sleep…As I’m writing this I think again that I really need a teacher, but don’t see that happening anytime soon. In the mean time….books, being the perceiver and not the perceived…I guess!!! Thanks. Continue reading →
Most spiritual seekers, Western as well as Eastern, meditate. Therefore countless forms of meditation have developed: still and in motion, silent, with chanting, with prayer, concentrating on something or seeking the opposite of concentration. In Advaita Vedanta meditation plays an important role, too. There are two forms: Meditation on an object and meditation without an object. Continue reading →
Q. Dennis–I have read your books( and appreciate them) and many books and tapes from many teachers on advaita and “neoadvaita” . There have been glimpses and experiencing here in the last 15 years resulting in much lightness in this life. The real freedom came when it was realized there was no more need to “decide” “who to listen to or follow” and “I” have followed them all. I have one question which seems to separate your views from Parsons yet he, you and the others all state that “the bottom line is “nothing matters” and whether or not an apparent person “gains” self knowledge makes not the slightest difference to reality-oneness. The question is this:
If the truth is ultimately only oneness always present, what difference does it make whether “I” as a separate individual meditates or doesn’t, “prepares myself for awakening or doesn’t etc, etc or does whatever “I” thinks it is doing??. If I rob a store which seems to be out of the nature of this ‘I’, why do you( or the traditional Advaita scriptures) say this is “dangerous” if not prepared??. Whatever apparently happens is going to apparently happen anyway with no “doing” by “me” The freedom here has come from having intuitive trust and let life guide. Continue reading →